How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Greenville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Greenville residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 fill comparable 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Greenville AL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Greenville AL paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. 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 Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Greenville AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Greenville AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students in Greenville AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address 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 school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Greenville AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Greenville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Greenville AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide 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 a means for students to start developing contacts within the Greenville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. 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 wish to first consider those colleges that are within your Greenville AL local area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Greenville AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Greenville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Greenville AL?
Greenville is a city in Butler County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 8,135. The city is the county seat of Butler County and is known as the Camellia City. The movement to change the official Alabama state flower from the goldenrod to the camellia originated in Greenville with legislative sponsors LaMont Glass and H.B. Taylor.
Greenville was first settled in 1819. Its original name was Buttsville, but after becoming the county seat in 1822, its name was changed to Greenville, in remembrance of the former locale in South Carolina of many of the original settlers. The first county seat was at Fort Dale, a fortification that was named for Sam Dale, who fought to defend the area during the Creek War. The site of Fort Dale lies on the north of the city near the Fort Dale Cemetery, along what is now Alabama Highway 185.
The namesake of the county, Captain William Butler, was killed during the Creek War. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, which is across from the oldest church in Butler County, the First United Methodist Church of Greenville.
Greenville is located in southern Alabama at 31°49'52.583" North, 86°37'39.241" West (31.831273, -86.627567).Interstate 65 passes to the west of the city center, with access from exits 128 and 130. U.S. Route 31 passes to the east of the city center. Montgomery, the state capital, is 44 miles (71 km) north, the closest city to Greenville with a population above 50,000.Mobile is 127 miles (204 km) to the southwest on I-65.
Choose the Right Paralegal School near Greenville AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Greenville residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior 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 prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Greenville AL.
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