How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Clanton Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Clanton AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving range of their Clanton homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential 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 what a paralegal does and the educational 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 fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only 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 help attorneys in Clanton AL with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. 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 practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Clanton AL paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. 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 proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Clanton AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory 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. Some of the highly regarded 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Clanton AL.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for students in Clanton AL searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain 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, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Clanton AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to 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 degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating 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 pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Clanton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Clanton AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Clanton AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within your Clanton AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Clanton AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Clanton AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Clanton AL?
Clanton is a city in Chilton County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Birmingham–Hoover–Cullman Combined Statistical Area. At the 2010 census the population was 8,619. The city is the county seat of Chilton County. Clanton is near the site of the geographic center of the U.S state of Alabama.
The town was founded by Alfred Baker in 1868, when Chilton County was formed. Prior to establishment in 1868, the Town of Clanton was known as the community of "Goose Pond". Baker County was renamed to Chilton County and the community of "Goose Pond" became the Town of Clanton. Clanton was named in honor of General James H. Clanton, a brigadier in the Confederate States Army, and was incorporated on April 23, 1873. Baker was also elected first mayor of the town.
Nearby Lay Lake Dam and Mitchell Dam became Alabama Power's first two dams in the state, bringing economic improvements to the area. Immigrants played a part in starting the county's peach industry more than a century ago. Today, the peach industry is the number one industry in Chilton County, not only bringing fame to the county, but also millions of dollars to the local economy. The city of Clanton constructed a water tower in the form of a peach in 1993, becoming a landmark for travelers along Interstate 65.
Clanton is located southeast of the center of Chilton County at 32°50'23.316" North, 86°37'41.477" West (32.839810, -86.628188). Clanton, Alabama, in Chilton county, is 37 miles NW of Montgomery, Alabama (center to center) and 144 miles SW of Atlanta, Georgia.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Training near Clanton AL
Choosing 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 post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Clanton residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Clanton AL.
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