How to Pick the Right Paralegal Training Program near Valley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Valley AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Valley residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Valley AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Valley AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Valley AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Valley AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Valley AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Valley AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Valley AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Valley AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Valley AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Valley AL?
If you live near Valley Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Chambers County, Alabama
Chambers County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2010 census the population was 34,215. Its county seat is Lafayette. Its name is in honor of Henry H. Chambers, who served as a United States Senator from Alabama.
Chambers County joined its four mill cities to make the city of Valley (which is now the largest city). Valley is rapidly increasing in size and located between Montgomery, Alabama and Atlanta, Georgia.
As of the census of 2010, there were 34,215 people, 13,933 households, and 9,391 families residing in the county. The population density was 57 people per square mile (22/km2). There were 17,004 housing units at an average density of 28 per square mile (11/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 58.8% White (non-Hispanic), 38.7% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.6% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. 1.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Best Paralegal Schools Valley AL
Enrolling in the best legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Best Paralegal Schools. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Valley residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Valley AL.
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