How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Helena Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Helena AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Helena homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 lawyers in Helena AL with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Helena AL paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Helena AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After 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 may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Helena AL.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals in Helena AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing Helena AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered 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 especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Helena AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Helena AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Helena AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within your Helena AL local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Helena AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Helena AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Helena AL?
Helena (pronunciation hel-LE-nah) is a city in Jefferson and Shelby Counties in the state of Alabama. Helena is considered a suburb of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Area. As of the 2010 census, the population was 16,793. Helena is highly regarded as a place to live and raise children; Business Week named Helena the 13th "Best Place to Raise Your Kids" in 2007. It has the eighth-lowest crime rate per population in the U.S., and the city was ranked in Money magazine's 2007 list of "Best Places to Live: Top 100" in the U.S., placing at number 91. The Alabama League of Municipalities awarded Helena the 2008 Municipal Achievement Award (population 10,001 to 20,000).
Helena initially incorporated in 1877, but reincorporated in 1917 after errors were discovered in the initial incorporation papers. It did not first appear on the U.S. Census until 1920, giving credence to the later date of incorporation.
The initial settlers to Helena, initially named Cove, were veterans of the final campaigns of the War of 1812. Members of Andrew Jackson's army who cut through the brush were attracted to the quiet, peaceful valleys and streams after the Battle of Horseshoe Bend. These first settlers were reported to arrive in 1849 and were predated by the Creek Indian tribes who these settlers had battled. By 1856, the Cove post office opened. Shortly thereafter, the settlers changed the name of the town to Hillsboro.
The onset of the Civil War brought the need for the South to increase its manufacturing output and add industrialization where there was none prior. Coal and iron ore mines were dug all throughout the area and the addition of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad infrastructure made Helena a center point for the wartime efforts. Around 1864 a rolling mill was built on Buck Creek, near the rail lines to process the Iron from Selma. Peter Boyle, an engineer for the railroad working on a new line, met and courted Helen Lee. He would name the burgeoning rail station that fed the rolling mill after her and, eventually, changing the town name to Helena.
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Helena AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Helena residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Helena AL.
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