How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Centreville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Centreville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Centreville homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Centreville AL with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Centreville AL paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Centreville AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Centreville AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals in Centreville AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Centreville AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select 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 focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Centreville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Centreville AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Centreville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Centreville AL local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Centreville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Centreville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Centreville AL?
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Centreville has a total area of 9.6 square miles (24.9 km2), of which 9.5 square miles (24.5 km2) are land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 1.52%, is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Centreville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
As of the census of 2010, there were 2,778 people, 1,066 households, and 729 families residing in the city. The population density was 294 inhabitants per square mile (114/km2). There were 1,178 housing units at an average density of 122 per square mile (47/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 72.2% White, 23.7% Black or African American, 0.3% Native American, 0.4% Asian, 2.4% from other races, and 1.1% from two or more races. 3.0% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 1,066 households, of which 29.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% were married couples living together, 15.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.6% were non-families. 29.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 14.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.50 and the average family size was 3.07
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Centreville AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Centreville residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Centreville AL.
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