How to Choose the Right Paralegal Program near Wetumpka Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wetumpka AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Wetumpka residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are 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 considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Wetumpka AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, 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 limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Wetumpka AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the profession 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Wetumpka AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Wetumpka AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Wetumpka AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer 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 creating contacts within the Wetumpka AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Wetumpka AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Wetumpka AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wetumpka AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Wetumpka AL?
If you live near Wetumpka 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.
Wetumpka is a city in and the county seat of Elmore County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 6,528. In the early 21st century, Elmore County, long a rural area, became one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. The city is considered part of the Montgomery Metropolitan Area.
Wetumpka identifies as "The City of Natural Beauty". Among the notable landmarks are the Wetumpka crater and the Jasmine Hill Gardens, with a full-sized replica of the Temple of Hera of Olympia, Greece. Historic downtown Wetumpka developed on both sides of the Coosa River. It was near Fort Toulouse, built by French colonists in 1717, when they had claimed this territory for the king.
The word Wetumpka is derived from the Muscogee language (Creek) phrase we-wau tum-cau. The name Wetumpka is a historic Creek place word meaning "rumbling waters", believed to be a description of the sound of the nearby Coosa River at the rapids of the Devil's Staircase. The roar of the rapids reportedly could be heard for miles before the construction in the 20th century of Walter Bouldin Dam and Jordan Dam, when the river was captured as a reservoir behind the dam.
Legal Secretary Online Courses Wetumpka AL
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is an essential 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 Legal Secretary Online Courses. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Wetumpka residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wetumpka AL.
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