How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Livingston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Livingston AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Livingston homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 assist lawyers in Livingston AL with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might 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 lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Livingston AL paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly 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 manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Livingston AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Livingston AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals in Livingston AL looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Livingston AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Livingston AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Livingston AL paralegal programs you are considering. 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. Verifying 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 determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Livingston AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within your Livingston AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Livingston AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Livingston AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Livingston AL?
Livingston is a city in Sumter County, Alabama, United States. By an act of the state legislature, it was incorporated on January 10, 1835. At the 2010 census the population was 3,485, up from 3,297 in 2000. The city is the county seat of Sumter County. It was named in honor of Edward Livingston, of the Livingston family of New York.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 3,485 people residing in the city. 63.8% were African American, 34.4% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander and 0.6% of two more races. 0.7% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,297 people, 1,368 households, and 731 families residing in the city. The population density was 463.1 people per square mile (178.8/km²). There were 1,586 housing units at an average density of 222.8 per square mile (86.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 60.78% Black or African American, 37.82% White or Caucasian, 0.18% Asian, 0.15% Native American, 0.30% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 1.43% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Of the 1,368 households, 29.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 30.0% were married couples living together, 20.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 46.5% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.31 and the average family size was 3.14.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Livingston AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Livingston residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Livingston AL.
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