How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Florence Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Florence AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Florence homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal 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 educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Florence AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including 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 firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Florence AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Florence AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Florence AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick 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 call some Florence AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Florence AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. 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 may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Florence AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Florence AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Florence AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Florence AL?
If you live near Florence AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Florence is the largest and principal city of the Florence-Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area (which includes Muscle Shoals, Sheffield, and Tuscumbia metropolitan areas in Colbert and Lauderdale counties). Florence is considered northwestern Alabama's primary economic hub.
Annual tourism events include the W. C. Handy Music Festival in the summer and the Renaissance Faire in the fall. Landmarks in Florence include the Rosenbaum House, the only Frank Lloyd Wright-designed home located in Alabama.
Florence and Lauderdale County have one hospital, Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital. ECM is a 358 bed facility owned by RCCH HealthCare Partners in Brentwood, Tennessee. In 2010 RCCH HealthCare Partners announced that they would build a new hospital in Florence. The hospital is due to be completed in December 2018.
Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Florence AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Florence home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Florence AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 1