How to Find a Paralegal College near Auburn Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Auburn AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Auburn homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, 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 basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 Auburn AL with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Auburn AL paralegal can be complex and rather 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 restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career in Auburn AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Auburn AL.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students in Auburn AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Auburn AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when 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 searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about as well, such as 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 investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Auburn AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Auburn AL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Auburn AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within your Auburn AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Auburn AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Auburn AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Auburn AL?
Auburn is a city in Lee County, Alabama, United States. It is the largest city in eastern Alabama with a 2016 population of 63,118. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 158,991, along with the Columbus, GA-AL MSA and Tuskegee, Alabama, comprises the greater Columbus-Auburn-Opelika, GA-AL CSA, a region home to 501,649 residents.
Auburn is a historic college town and is the home of Auburn University. It is Alabama's fastest-growing metropolitan area and the nineteenth fastest-growing metro area in the United States since 1990. U.S. News ranked Auburn among its top ten list of best places to live in the United States for the year 2009. The city's unofficial nickname is “The Loveliest Village On The Plains,” taken from a line in the poem The Deserted Village by Oliver Goldsmith: “Sweet Auburn! loveliest village of the plain...”
Inhabited in antiquity by the Creek, the land on which Auburn sits was opened to settlement in 1832 with the Treaty of Cusseta. The first settlers arrived in the winter of 1836 from Harris County, Georgia. These settlers, led by Judge John J. Harper, intended to build a town that would be the religious and educational center for the area.
Auburn was incorporated on February 2, 1839, in what was then Macon County, covering an area of 2 square miles (5.2 km2). By that time, Methodist and Baptist churches had been established, and a school had been built and had come into operation. In the mid-1840s, separate academies for boys and girls were established in addition to the primary school. This concentration of educational institutions led to a rapid influx of families from the planter class into Auburn in the 1840s and 1850s. By 1858, of the roughly 1,000 free residents of Auburn, some 500 were students.
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Auburn AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Auburn home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Auburn AL.
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