How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Guntersville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Guntersville AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic 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 range of their Guntersville homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Guntersville AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Guntersville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Guntersville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Guntersville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Guntersville AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Guntersville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Guntersville AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Guntersville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Guntersville AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as 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 could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Guntersville AL?
If you live near Guntersville 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.
Guntersville (previously known as Gunter's Ferry and later Gunter's Landing) is a city in Marshall County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population of the city was 8,197. The city is the county seat of Marshall County. Guntersville is located in a HUBZone as identified by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 42.4 square miles (109.9 km2), of which 25.4 square miles (65.8 km2) is land and 17.0 square miles (44.1 km2), or 40.14%, is water.
Guntersville is located at the southernmost point of the Tennessee River on Lake Guntersville, formed by the Guntersville Dam (built by the Tennessee Valley Authority). Geologically, the lake occupies a southern extension of Sequatchie Valley, which continues south as Browns Valley.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Program near Guntersville AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important 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 at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Guntersville residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Guntersville AL.
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