How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Blountsville Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Blountsville AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Blountsville homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Blountsville AL with a wide range of job functions, 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Blountsville AL paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Blountsville AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Blountsville AL.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those in Blountsville AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Blountsville AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Blountsville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Blountsville AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Blountsville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within your Blountsville AL local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Blountsville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Blountsville AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Blountsville AL?
Blount County was created by the Alabama territorial legislature on February 6, 1818, from land ceded to the federal government by the Creek Nation on August 9, 1814. It was named for Gov. Willie G. Blount of Tennessee, who provided assistance to settlers in Alabama during the Creek War of 1813-14. It lies in the northeastern section of the state, generally known as the mineral region.
What became Blountsville appears on an 1819 map as the mixed Creek/Cherokee Native American village of "Wassausey" (meaning Bear Meat Cabin, the name of an Indian translator who lived there). The town was established by Caleb Fryley and Johnny Jones in 1816 as Bear Meat Cabin. The post office was opened as Blountsville on October 20, 1825, and incorporated on December 13, 1827. It was the county seat until 1889 when the government was moved to Oneonta.
There were many schools in the town in the early years: The Academy, Blount College and the District Agricultural School, plus the public schools. The Blount County Courthouse and jail was built in 1833 and remained there until it was moved to Oneonta. A major crossroads in early Alabama, Blountsville became a Confederate depot for the cavalry. Confederate forces led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union forces led by General Abel Streight skirmished briefly in the town on May 1, 1863, and Major General Lovell H. Rousseau and his Union cavalry occupied the town in July 1864. Blount College was in the building that was originally the courthouse. It was established in 1890. The beautiful Blountsville United Methodist Church was established in 1818 and is the oldest building in Blountsville and is still in use today. Another old building in Blountsville was once known as the Barclift House. Built in 1834 as Hendricks Tavern, it is now owned and is being restored by the Ortiz family.
The Copeland-Bussey House, built c. 1835, is one of the oldest structures in northeast Alabama. The building has been stabilized by the Alabama Historic Preservation Alliance and the Blountsville Historical Society.
Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Blountsville AL
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Blountsville home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Blountsville AL.
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