How to Find a Paralegal School near Gardendale Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gardendale AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably 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. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Gardendale homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available 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 positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Gardendale AL with a diverse array of job functions, 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting 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 role of a Gardendale AL paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, 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 tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Gardendale AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Gardendale AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Gardendale AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly 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 address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Gardendale AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can 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 standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Gardendale AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Gardendale AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select 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 call several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Gardendale AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within your Gardendale AL local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Gardendale AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Gardendale AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Gardendale AL?
A large farm settlement near the area today known as Gardendale was settled around 1825. Some years later, other settlers began to move into the community commonly known as Jugtown, a name given to the area based on the presence of a large jug and churn factory that operated in the area. Some years later, Hettie Thomason Cargo, a school teacher, would lead a campaign to change the name of the community. In 1906, the name Gardendale was selected, and in 1955, the City of Gardendale was officially incorporated. Today, with more than 13,000 residents (estimated), the city of Gardendale has grown to include more than 400 businesses, 4 schools, and 24 churches.
In 1996, the Olympic torch run passed through the city during the weeks leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Before Interstate 65 was constructed, the main route between Nashville, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama was U.S. Route 31. Prior to being built as a four-lane road, U.S. 31 was a twisting two-lane road that is still largely visible today. From the north end of Gardendale, it is now Snow Rogers Road, North Road, Moncrief Road, and then Main Street southward through the city to the Fultondale city limit where it becomes Stouts Road. In the fall of 2008, new signs were placed along the original route of Stouts Road through Gardendale denoting its historical significance as a stagecoach route between Tennessee and Birmingham during the 19th century. The first traffic signals in the city were located along U.S. 31 at Tarrant Road, Fieldstown Road, and Moncrief Road as well as Tarrant Road at Pineywood Road. A new signal at the intersection of Fieldstown Road and Main Street near city hall replaced a blinking signal shortly thereafter. Fieldstown Road was a narrow two lane road from U.S. 31 westward until Interstate 65 was built and then Fieldstown Road was re-routed onto the new road in the mid-1980s. An abundance of traffic signals have been erected in the city since those early days. In approximately 1970, the city installed street lights along U.S. 31 from the Fultondale city limits northward to the Moncrief Road intersection. The technology at that time was for blue vapor lights. Today, nearly 40 years later those same blue vapor lights still exist with some being replaced with the more modern bulbs near major intersections. Since 1980, Gardendale has annexed considerable amounts of land on the north, east, and west sides. Much of the eastern area is uninhabited. The western annexation is centered along Fieldstown Road. Most of the newest residential development has been in this area and along Shady Grove Road south of Fieldstown Road. The northern annexation has centered along US 31 and extends nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) farther north than 1980. The city has a working historical society, established January 23, 2006, that is working to record the history of the Gardendale area. They have a museum that is open to the public on Saturday mornings each week. It contains a variety of photographs, documents, and other historical memorabilia from Gardendale.
Gardendale is located at 33°39′36″N 86°48′46″W / 33.66000°N 86.81278°W / 33.66000; -86.81278 (33.6601033, -86.8127702). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.0 square miles (47 km2), all land. However, with the recent annexation of several thousand acres from the community of Mt. Olive and other unincorporated areas, the city now has an estimated total area of around 25.0 square miles (65 km2). Gardendale is situated along one of the three major transportation corridors from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast (I-75, I-65, I-55). A tremendous volume of freight (via rail and truck) passes through or near Gardendale.
Gardendale is served by two major north-south highways: Interstate 65 and U.S. 31. A new interstate highway, Interstate 22 will run northwestward from I-65 near Gardendale towards Memphis, Tennessee. This freeway is open from Coalburg Road near Fultondale just southwest of Gardendale to Memphis. Another future road project is the Northern Beltline which will run from Interstate 59 near Argo westward across northern Jefferson County, crossing I-65 on the northern edge of Gardendale. This highway is currently designated to become Interstate 422. This route is some 15–20 years away from completion. Major east/west roads in Gardendale include Fieldstown Road (there has been some discussion of requesting a state highway designation for this road between US 31 and I-65 and perhaps westward towards I-22) which runs from U.S. 31 in Gardendale westward, Tarrant Road which runs from the city eastward, and Mt. Olive Road which runs northwestward from the city. Another future road project may be an extension of Fieldstown Road east of U.S. 31 to connect to the Castle Pines development (which is in the city but only accessible via a roundabout route nearly 10 miles (16 km) long) and then across New Castle Road, and then further east to connect to Carson Road. Gardendale is located in an area that once yielded large amounts of coal. Gardendale is located at the southwestern end of one of the Appalachian ridgelines running from eastern Tennessee into northeast Alabama. Several old and closed coal mines exist in the area as well as lands that were once strip mined and then replanted for forests. No major waterways are located in Gardendale but several streams feed into the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River that passes north and west of the city. Much of the land inside the city limits on the east and northeast sides of Gardendale is rocky and hilly with deep ravines. This portion of the city is sparsely populated and has limited access by road. The only major rail line passing near Gardendale is a north/south track passing on the eastern edge of the city from Boyles Yard near Tarrant paralleling New Castle Road northward towards Blount County. This rail line carries freight and is not a passenger line. The nearest passenger train service is by Amtrak at the Birmingham station 10 miles (16 km) south of Gardendale. Commercial air travel is located at the nearby Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training near Gardendale AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward 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 comfort and privacy of your Gardendale home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Gardendale AL.
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