How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Pleasant Grove Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pleasant Grove AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require 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 being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Pleasant Grove residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Pleasant Grove AL with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Pleasant Grove AL paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Pleasant Grove AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Pleasant Grove AL searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Pleasant Grove AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research also, for instance 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 programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Pleasant Grove AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Pleasant Grove AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided 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 firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. 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 give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Pleasant Grove AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance 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 substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Pleasant Grove AL local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Pleasant Grove AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Pleasant Grove 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 enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Pleasant Grove AL?
Pleasant Grove, Alabama
It was established in 1889, but incorporated as a city in January 1937. The incorporation came about by reason of a rather unusual circumstance. The town sits on land honeycombed by coal mines. For many years the residents had relied on water wells for their water supply. As years passed and more mining was done, Pleasant Grove found itself confronted with a problem. Residents would sometimes go to their well to draw water only to find there was none. The water had gone into the mines.
During the mid to late 30’s, the Federal Government had a program for financing the building of local water systems. In exploring the possibility of securing such funds, it was revealed that in order to secure such financing a community must be legally incorporated. At this time the incorporation became a reality.
The first appointed Mayor of Pleasant Grove was W.P. Stone. The city is governed by a mayor and five council members who serve four-year terms. Elections for city officials is held during the summer of each leap year with four-year terms beginning the first Monday in October. The area known as Pleasant Grove, Alabama was first homesteaded in September 1836. Pleasant Grove is in Jefferson County. Although no one seems to know when or exactly how the town came by its name, old documents indicate that at least part of this area was called Pleasant Grove as early as 1884. Pleasant Grove was made up of four communities which included Frog Pond, Lizard Ridge, Cottage Hill, and Pleasant Grove.
The city is governed by a mayor, currently Jerry Brasseale, and five-member council. All city officials are elected to four-year terms on leap years. The council meets the first and third Monday of each month at Pleasant Grove City Hall. Council members as of the 2008 election are James Mosely, William Bullion, Terrie Hicks, Philip Houston and Paula Johnson.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Pleasant Grove AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 privacy and comfort of your Pleasant Grove residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL.
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