How to Choose a Paralegal College near Alexander City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Alexander City AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Alexander City homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Alexander City AL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform 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 firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Alexander City AL paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice 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 really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Alexander City AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Alexander City AL.
Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for students in Alexander City AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Alexander City AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Alexander City AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Alexander City AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Alexander City AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out 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 indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Alexander City AL local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Alexander City AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Alexander City AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Alexander City AL?
Alexander City, Alabama
Alexander City, known to locals as "Alex City", is a city in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, United States, with a population of some 14,875. It is known for Lake Martin with its 750 miles (1,210 km) of wooded shoreline and 44,000 acres (180 km2) of water. Lake Martin stands on the Tallapoosa River and offers boating, swimming, fishing, golfing, and camping. Many neighborhoods and luxury homes are located on the lake.
Alexander City was incorporated in 1872 as Youngsville, after its founder James Young. In 1873, the Savannah and Memphis Railroad came to the city. The city was renamed in honor of the railroad's President Edward Porter Alexander, hero of the Battle of Gettysburg for the Confederate States.
On June 13, 1902, at 1 pm, a fire broke out in the Alexander City Machine shop and destroyed much of the town. At the time, Alexander City did not have a water system and all buildings, including the telegraph office, post office and three banks were burned.
In 2015, plaintiffs represented by the Southern Poverty Law Center sued the City of Alexander and its Chief of Police Willie Robinson in federal court, alleging that they had from 2013 to 2015 operated "a modern-day debtors' prison" that unconstitutionally used its police force to arrest and detain at least 190 poor defendants who were unable to pay Municipal Court-imposed fines and costs. In 2017, the city reached a settlement, in which the city and its insurer agreed to pay $680,000 to persons illegally jailed.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Program near Alexander City AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Alexander City home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Alexander City AL.
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