How to Pick a Paralegal School near Marion Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Marion AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Marion homes. Of those alternatives, 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 ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 for the most part both fill comparable job roles 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Marion AL with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready 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 Marion AL paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Marion AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Marion AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students in Marion AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Marion AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 already discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, for instance 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 effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Marion AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Marion AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select 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 contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Marion AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you plan 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 all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Marion AL local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Marion AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Marion AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Marion AL?
Marion is a city in, and the county seat of, Perry County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 3,686, up 4.8% over 2000. First known as Muckle Ridge, the city was renamed after a hero of the American Revolution, Francis Marion.
Formerly the territory of the Creek Indians, it was founded shortly after 1819 as Muckle Ridge. The city was renamed in honor of Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox," hero of the American Revolutionary War, in 1822. It incorporated as a town the same year and also became the second county seat after the hamlet of Perry Ridge was unsuitable. In 1829, it upgraded from a town to a city. From the very early days, Marion created considerable history for a small town on the western frontier of Alabama. The old City Hall (1832) is but one of many antebellum public buildings, churches, and homes in the city today.
At the 1844 meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in Marion, the "Alabama Resolutions" were passed. This was one of the factors that led to the 1845 formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, Georgia.
Judson College was founded in 1838 and Marion Military Institute after Howard College moved in 1887. Howard College, initially the location of the current Marion Military Institute, was founded in Marion in 1842, and moved to Birmingham in 1887, later becoming Samford University. A groundbreaking school for African Americans, the Lincoln Normal School, was founded here in 1867. The associated Lincoln Normal University for Teachers moved to Montgomery and became Alabama State University. In 1889, Marion Military Institute was chartered by the State of Alabama and today is the oldest military junior college in the nation.
Select the Ideal Paralegal College near Marion AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Marion home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community 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 opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Marion AL.
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