How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Demopolis Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Demopolis AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Demopolis residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover 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 choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Demopolis AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Demopolis AL paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Demopolis AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Demopolis AL.
Online Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good option for those in Demopolis AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures 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 a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing Demopolis AL area schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. 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 as well. Many Demopolis AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Demopolis AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished 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 offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Demopolis AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within your Demopolis AL local area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Demopolis AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Demopolis AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Demopolis AL?
The city lies at the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers. It is situated atop a cliff composed of the Demopolis Chalk Formation, known locally as White Bluff, on the east bank of the Tombigbee River. It is at the center of Alabama's Canebrake region and is also within the Black Belt.
Demopolis was founded after the fall of Napoleon's Empire and named by a group of French expatriates, a mix of exiled Bonapartists and other French migrants who had settled in the United States after the overthrow of the colonial government in Saint-Domingue following the failed Saint-Domingue expedition. The name, meaning in Greek "the People's City" or "City of the People", was chosen to honor the democratic ideals behind the endeavor. First settled in 1817, it is one of the oldest continuous settlements in Alabama. It was incorporated on December 11, 1821.."
Organizing themselves first in Philadelphia, French expatriates petitioned the U.S. Congress to sell them property for land to colonize. Congress granted approval by an act on March 3, 1817 that allowed them to buy four townships in the Alabama Territory at $2 per acre, with the provision that they cultivate grape vines and olive trees. Following advice obtained from experienced Western pioneers, they determined that Alabama would provide a good climate for cultivating these crops. By July 14, 1817, a small party of pioneers had settled at White Bluff on the Tombigbee River, at the present site of Demopolis, founding the Vine and Olive Colony.
Most prominent and wealthiest among the immigrants was Count Lefebvre Desnouettes, who had been a cavalry officer with the rank of Lieutenant-General, under Napoleon. Considered Napoleon's best friend, he had ridden in Napoleon's carriage during his failed invasion of Russia. Other prominent figures among them included Lieutenant-General Baron Henri-Dominique Lallemand, Count Bertrand Clausel, Joseph Lakanal, Simon Chaudron, Pasqual Luciani, Colonel Jean-Jerome Cluis, Jean-Marie Chapron, Colonel Nicholas Raoul, and Frederic Ravesies. Most of these expatriates had little interest in pioneer life and sold their shares in the colony, remaining in Philadelphia. By 1818, the colony consisted of only 69 settlers.
Select the Ideal Paralegal School near Demopolis AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Demopolis residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Demopolis AL.
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