How to Select a Paralegal College near Prattville Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Prattville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Prattville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration 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 each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives 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 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 belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Prattville AL with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions 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 delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Prattville AL paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Prattville AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 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 first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Prattville AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals in Prattville AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Prattville AL area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some 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 Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Prattville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Prattville AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Prattville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within your Prattville AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Prattville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Prattville AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Prattville AL?
Prattville is a city in Autauga and Elmore counties in the State of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 33,960. Nicknamed "The Fountain City" due to the many artesian wells in the area, Prattville is part of the Montgomery metropolitan statistical area and serves as the county seat of Autauga County.
Prattville was founded in 1839 by industrialist and architect Daniel Pratt. The area was largely inhabited by Native Americans and a few settlers when Pratt, a native of Temple, New Hampshire, first observed the Autauga Creek in the 1830s. He purchased approximately 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) from Joseph May at $21.00 an acre, and set out to build his manufacturing facilities and the town along the banks of Autauga Creek. The location was chosen because the creek could supply power to the cotton gin manufacturing equipment. The town became an industrial center and rapidly grew. In 1868, it was named the county seat for Autauga County.
On February 17, 2008, Prattville was hit by an F3 tornado which destroyed more than 45 homes and businesses and damaged over 700. Twenty-nine people were injured with no fatalities. Preliminary estimates put the damage at $85 million in insured and uninsured damages.
Prattville is located at Coordinates: 32°27′44″N 86°27′41″W / 32.462235°N 86.461264°W / 32.462235; -86.461264 (32.462235, -86.461264). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 33.8 square miles (88 km2) of which 32.9 square miles (85 km2) is land and 0.9 square miles (2.3 km2) (3.09%) is water.
Find the Best Paralegal College near Prattville AL
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Prattville residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, 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 career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Prattville AL.
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