How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Calera Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Calera AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Calera homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Calera AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Calera AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Calera AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation 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 effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Calera AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Calera AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Calera AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through 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, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Calera AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Calera AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Calera AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things 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 the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Calera AL?
If you live near Calera 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.
As of the 2010 census Calera had a population of 11,620, more than tripling its total in 2000, making it the fastest-growing city in Alabama. It is within the Birmingham-Hoover, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Calera is located in southern Shelby County at 33°06′27″N 86°45′00″W / 33.107572°N 86.749964°W / 33.107572; -86.749964. The city limits extend southward into Chilton County along U.S. Route 31, the main highway through the city. Interstate 65 passes through the eastern side of the city, with access from exits 228, 231, and 234. Birmingham is 34 mi (55 km) north, and Montgomery is 59 mi (95 km) south, both via I-65.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 24.4 square miles (63.1 km2), of which 24.1 square miles (62.4 km2) is land and 0.27 square miles (0.7 km2), or 1.17%, is water.
Legal Studies Online Training Calera AL
Choosing the best paralegal certificate school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Legal Studies Online Training. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Calera residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Calera AL.
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