How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Blountsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Blountsville AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Blountsville residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Blountsville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist 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 lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel 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 right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Blountsville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 program (we will cover 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 Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Blountsville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Blountsville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Blountsville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Blountsville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Blountsville AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Blountsville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Blountsville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Blountsville AL?
If you live near Blountsville 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.
Blount County was created by the Alabama territorial legislature on February 6, 1818, from land ceded to the federal government by the Creek Nation on August 9, 1814. It was named for Gov. Willie G. Blount of Tennessee, who provided assistance to settlers in Alabama during the Creek War of 1813-14. It lies in the northeastern section of the state, generally known as the mineral region.
What became Blountsville appears on an 1819 map as the mixed Creek/Cherokee Native American village of "Wassausey" (meaning Bear Meat Cabin, the name of an Indian translator who lived there). The town was established by Caleb Fryley and Johnny Jones in 1816 as Bear Meat Cabin. The post office was opened as Blountsville on October 20, 1825, and incorporated on December 13, 1827. It was the county seat until 1889 when the government was moved to Oneonta.
There were many schools in the town in the early years: The Academy, Blount College and the District Agricultural School, plus the public schools. The Blount County Courthouse and jail was built in 1833 and remained there until it was moved to Oneonta. A major crossroads in early Alabama, Blountsville became a Confederate depot for the cavalry. Confederate forces led by General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Union forces led by General Abel Streight skirmished briefly in the town on May 1, 1863, and Major General Lovell H. Rousseau and his Union cavalry occupied the town in July 1864. Blount College was in the building that was originally the courthouse. It was established in 1890. The beautiful Blountsville United Methodist Church was established in 1818 and is the oldest building in Blountsville and is still in use today. Another old building in Blountsville was once known as the Barclift House. Built in 1834 as Hendricks Tavern, it is now owned and is being restored by the Ortiz family.
Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Blountsville AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Blountsville residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Blountsville AL.
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