How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Reform Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Reform AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Reform homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Reform AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties 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 transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex 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 action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Reform AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although 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. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Reform AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, such as 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Reform AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 contact some Reform AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Reform AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Reform AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Reform AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Reform AL, make certain classes are available 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 as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Reform AL?
If you live near Reform 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.
Reform is a city in Pickens County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 1,702, down from 1,978 in 2000. It is located approximately halfway between Columbus, Mississippi and Tuscaloosa on U.S. Route 82.
Sparsely settled after statehood, Reform first received a post office in 1841. It wasn't incorporated until March 2, 1898, following the community getting train service via the Mobile and Ohio Railroad. According to tradition, the community was named from an incident when an evangelist paid the new settlement a visit, imploring the first settlers to "reform".
In May 1968, a mule train, part of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference sponsored Poor People's Campaign, stopped for two days in Reform before heading to Tuscaloosa, Alabama on its way to Washington, DC.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Reform AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Reform home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Reform AL.
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