How to Choose a Paralegal College near Tuscaloosa Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tuscaloosa AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Tuscaloosa homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices 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 comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Tuscaloosa AL with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Tuscaloosa AL paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Tuscaloosa AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose 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 job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Tuscaloosa AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals in Tuscaloosa AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Tuscaloosa AL area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Tuscaloosa AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Tuscaloosa AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 call a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Tuscaloosa AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within your Tuscaloosa AL local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Tuscaloosa AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tuscaloosa AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Tuscaloosa AL?
Tuscaloosa (/tʌskəˈluːsə/ TUS-kə-LOO-sə) is a city in and the seat of Tuscaloosa County in west central Alabama (in the southeastern United States). Located on the Black Warrior River at the Atlantic Seaboard fall line of the Piedmont, it is the fifth-largest city in Alabama, with an estimated population of 99,543 in 2016.
Incorporated as a town on December 13, 1819, it was named after Tuskaloosa, the chief of a band of Muskogean-speaking people. They battled and were defeated by forces of Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1540 in the Battle of Mabila, thought to have been located in what is now central Alabama. Tuscaloosa served as Alabama's capital city from 1826 to 1846.
Tuscaloosa is the regional center of industry, commerce, healthcare, and education for the area of west-central Alabama known as West Alabama. It is the principal city of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes Tuscaloosa, Hale and Pickens counties. In 2013 its estimated metro population was 235,628. Tuscaloosa is also the home of The University of Alabama, Stillman College and Shelton State Community College. While the city attracted international attention when Mercedes-Benz announced it would build its first automotive assembly plant in North America in Tuscaloosa County, the University of Alabama remains the dominant economic and cultural engine in the city.
Tuscaloosa has been traditionally known as the "Druid City" because of the numerous water oaks planted in its downtown streets since the 1840s. The city has become known nationally for the sports successes of the University of Alabama, particularly in football. City leaders adopted the moniker "The City of Champions" after the Alabama Crimson Tide football team won the BCS National Championship in their 2009, 2011, and again in their 2012 seasons. The Tide won the College Football Playoff in the 2015 season and 2017 season
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Tuscaloosa AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tuscaloosa residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tuscaloosa AL.
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