How to Choose a Paralegal College near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Russellville AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Russellville residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at 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 essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Russellville AL with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with 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
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Russellville AL paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions 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 have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Russellville AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Russellville AL.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those in Russellville AL searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Russellville AL area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Russellville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Russellville AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Russellville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish 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 want to initially look at those schools that are within your Russellville AL local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Russellville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Russellville AL, make sure classes are available 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, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Russellville AL?
Russellville is a city in Franklin County in the U.S. state of Alabama. At the 2010 census, the population of the city was 9,830, up from 8,971 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Franklin County.
After the War of 1812, the U.S. government appropriated money to improve a route from Nashville to New Orleans. It was named Jackson's Military Road after Andrew Jackson, and it passed through what became Russellville. (Present-day Jackson Avenue and Jackson Highway, U.S. Route 43, follow portions of the original road.)
Russellville is named after Major William Russell, an early settler in the area who helped in the construction of Jackson's Military Road. The town grew at this road's intersection with the Gaines Trace.
Russellville served as the first county seat from 1818-1849 before it was removed to Frankfort (which served from 1849-1879). After the fire at the courthouse in the third county seat of Belgreen in 1890, the seat was returned to Russellville in 1891.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Program near Russellville AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Russellville residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain 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 accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Russellville AL.
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