How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Anniston Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Anniston AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Anniston residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Anniston AL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Anniston AL paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Anniston AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Anniston AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals in Anniston AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting 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 guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating Anniston AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 issues to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Anniston AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Anniston AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Anniston 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 pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Anniston AL local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Anniston AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Anniston AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Anniston AL?
Anniston is the county seat of Calhoun County in Alabama and is one of two urban centers/principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 23,106. According to 2013 Census estimates, the city had a population of 22,666.
Though the surrounding area was settled much earlier, the mineral resources in the area of Anniston were not exploited until the Civil War. The Confederate States of America then operated an iron furnace near present-day downtown Anniston, until it was finally destroyed by raiding Union cavalry in early 1865. Later, cast iron for sewer systems became the focus of Anniston's industrial output. Cast iron pipe, also called soil pipe, was popular until the advent of plastic pipe in the 1960s.
In 1872, the Woodstock Iron Company, organized by Samuel Noble and Union Gen. Daniel Tyler, rebuilt the furnace on a much larger scale, and started a planned community named Woodstock, soon renamed "Annie's Town" for Annie Scott Tyler, Daniel's daughter and wife of railroad president Alfred L. Tyler. Anniston was chartered as a town in 1873.
Though the roots of the town's economy were in iron, steel, and clay pipe, planners touted it as a health resort, and several hotels began operating. Schools also appeared, including the Noble Institute, a school for girls established in 1886, and the Alabama Presbyterian College for Men, founded in 1905. Careful planning and easy access to rail transportation helped make Anniston the fifth largest city in the state from the 1890s to the 1950s.
Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Anniston AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Anniston residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anniston AL.
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