How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Thomasville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Thomasville AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Thomasville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at 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 basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only 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 help lawyers in Thomasville AL with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Thomasville AL paralegal can be involved 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 proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Thomasville AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Thomasville AL.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those in Thomasville AL looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Thomasville AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Thomasville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Thomasville AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Thomasville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within your Thomasville AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Thomasville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Thomasville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Thomasville AL?
Thomasville is a city in Clarke County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 4,209. Founded as a late 19th-century railroad town, it has transitioned over the course of more than a century into a 21st-century commercial hub. It is the childhood hometown of author and storyteller Kathryn Tucker Windham.
Thomasville was founded in 1888 and incorporated on November 24 of that year. The former community of Choctaw Corner, dating back to the antebellum period, was a settlement west of what would become Thomasville, but when the merchants there learned that a railroad was going to bypass their town to the east, they decided to move their stores to be near the railroad. The former community is now inside the city limits. The tracks between Mobile and Selma were completed the same year that Thomasville began. First referred to as "Choctaw", the town was named after railroad financier and former Union Civil War general, Samuel Thomas, after he donated $500 for the construction of Thomasville's first school. The town had expanded by the end of the 19th century with numerous stores, several hotels and boarding houses, and a depot station. In 1899, what is now downtown was destroyed by a fire that burned several blocks of the wood frame buildings. Thomasville quickly rebuilt, this time in brick, and was once again flourishing by the start of World War I.
Over the next century, Thomasville continued to grow and expand. Over the years, many businesses came and others left. These included garment factories, sawmills, and cotton gins. The railroad discontinued its use of the town's depot by the 1950s, but that time also saw the opening of Thomasville's FPS-35 radar base, part of the Air Defense Command's Semi Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) system, bringing in servicemen and their families. The prototype for the FPS-35 radar was developed at the Thomasville Aircraft Control and Warning Station. The 1950s also saw the planting of roses along Highway 43, the main highway through Thomasville, earning it the nickname of The City of Roses. The 1960s and 1970s saw the opening of numerous paper mills in the area, an industry that continues to be important to the economy of Thomasville today. This time also saw businesses begin to relocate from downtown to the main highway. The Thomasville Historic District was designated in 1999 by the National Register of Historic Places.
Thomasville is located at coordinates 31°55′15″N 87°44′24″W / 31.92084°N 87.74008°W / 31.92084; -87.74008Coordinates: 31°55′15″N 87°44′24″W / 31.92084°N 87.74008°W / 31.92084; -87.74008. It is the northernmost incorporated settlement in Clarke County and is situated on an elevated area between the Tombigbee and Alabama rivers. The elevation is 381 feet (116 m). The terrain is gently rolling hills, covered primarily in pine forest. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.8 square miles (23 km2), all land.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Thomasville AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Thomasville residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter 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 final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Thomasville AL.
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