How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Phenix City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Phenix City AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Phenix City homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available 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. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Phenix City AL with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Phenix City AL paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Phenix City AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Phenix City AL.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those in Phenix City AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Phenix City AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 critical aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might 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 potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Phenix City AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Phenix City AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Phenix City AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within your Phenix City AL local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Phenix City AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Phenix City AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Phenix City AL?
Phenix City, Alabama
Phenix City lies immediately west across the Chattahoochee River from much larger Columbus, Georgia. Sometimes called Hub City, Most of Phenix City is included in the Columbus Metropolitan Statistical Area, but a section is located in Lee County, and is therefore in the Auburn, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. The entire city is part of the Columbus-Auburn-Opelika Combined Statistical Area.
Phenix City is located at 32°28′22″N 85°1′12″W / 32.47278°N 85.02000°W / 32.47278; -85.02000 (32.472822, -85.020121). It is the easternmost settlement in the state of Alabama as well as the Central Time Zone, but it and some other nearby areas unofficially observe Eastern Time, as these areas are part of the metropolitan area of the considerably larger city of Columbus, Georgia, which is in the Eastern Time Zone.
The climate in this area is characterized by relatively high temperatures and evenly distributed precipitation throughout the year. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Phenix City has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.
What is Phenix City today initially began as two towns bordering each other on the north and south. On the south side was Girard, in Russell County, and the town of Brownville, on the north side, which was entirely within Lee County. Because a community in Tuscaloosa County already claimed the name of Brownville, the post office insisted on the name of "Lively." To compound the confusion, the nearby railroad depot was called Knight's Station. Because residents preferred Brownville, on the 1880 U.S. Census, it was listed as both Brownville and Lively. It was formally incorporated by the legislature on February 23, 1883.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal School near Phenix City AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Phenix City residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Phenix City AL.
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