How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Calera Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Calera AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Calera homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Calera AL with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Calera AL paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable 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 have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Calera AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Calera AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals in Calera AL looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Calera AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate 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 begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Calera AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Calera AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, 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 office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Calera AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within your Calera AL local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Calera AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Calera AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Calera AL?
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.
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.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,158 people, 1,248 households, and 888 families residing in the city. The population density was 244.9 people per square mile (94.5/km2). There were 1,400 housing units at an average density of 108.6 per square mile (41.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 77.42% White, 19.92% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 1.20% from two or more races. 1.90% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal College near Calera AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Calera home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Calera AL.
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