How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Sheffield Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sheffield AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. 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 at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Sheffield homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational 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 the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Sheffield AL with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Sheffield AL paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Sheffield AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. 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 extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Sheffield AL.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals in Sheffield AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as 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 might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing Sheffield AL area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational 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 degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program 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 program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Sheffield AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Sheffield AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Sheffield AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within your Sheffield AL local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. 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 offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Sheffield AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Sheffield AL, verify classes are available 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. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Sheffield AL?
Sheffield is a city in Colbert County, Alabama, United States, and is included in the Shoals metropolitan area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 9,039. Sheffield is the birthplace of "country-soul pioneer" and songwriter Arthur Alexander, French horn player Willie Ruff, notable attorney, actor, former senator and presidential contender Fred Thompson, Watergate committee U.S. Senator Howell Heflin and U.S. Senator Mitch McConnell, whose father was working in nearby Athens when he was born. It sometimes is referred to as "the City of Senators" due to the births of Heflin, McConnell and Thompson within its borders. Col. Harland Sanders worked in the Sheffield depot for Southern Railway in the 1900s. It is also home to the Muscle Shoals Sound Studio where many popular 20th century musicians recorded their work, including Alexander and Ruff. It is the site of historic Helen Keller Hospital, formerly known as Colbert County Hospital and originally constructed in 1921. It was changed to Helen Keller Hospital in 1979, and Keller's birthplace Ivy Green is located less than one mile southwest of the hospital in adjacent Tuscumbia.
Sheffield is located in eastern Colbert County at 34°45′35″N 87°41′41″W / 34.75972°N 87.69472°W / 34.75972; -87.69472 (34.759721, -87.694592), on the south bank of the Tennessee River. Sheffield is bordered to the south by the city of Tuscumbia, to the southeast by Muscle Shoals, and to the north, across the river, by Florence.
Sheffield was one of the Colbert County sites of embarkation by riverboat and barge on the Tennessee River during the forced relocation of Eastern and Southern United States Indian tribes, known as the Trail of Tears. The embarkation site was at what is now the Spring Creek boat launch and park area.
Sheffield was the home of Muscle Shoals Sound Studios at 3614 Jackson Highway and later at 1000 Alabama Avenue. Cher, The Rolling Stones, The Osmonds, Aretha Franklin, Bob Seger, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simon & Garfunkel, The Staple Singers and many others recorded the biggest hits of their careers in this small studio, that remains well known and respected throughout the music industry.
Select the Right Paralegal School near Sheffield AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital 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 comfort and privacy of your Sheffield home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, 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 impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Sheffield AL.
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