How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Demopolis Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Demopolis AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Demopolis homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Demopolis AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour 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 duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. 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 paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Demopolis AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve 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 can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired 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 can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Demopolis AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn 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 begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Demopolis AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Demopolis AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, 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 office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Demopolis AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish 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 may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Demopolis AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Demopolis AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Demopolis AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Demopolis AL?
If you live near Demopolis 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.
The city lies at the confluence of the Black Warrior and Tombigbee rivers. It is situated atop a cliff composed of the Demopolis Chalk Formation, known locally as White Bluff, on the east bank of the Tombigbee River. It is at the center of Alabama's Canebrake region and is also within the Black Belt.
Demopolis was founded after the fall of Napoleon's Empire and named by a group of French expatriates, a mix of exiled Bonapartists and other French migrants who had settled in the United States after the overthrow of the colonial government in Saint-Domingue following the failed Saint-Domingue expedition. The name, meaning in Greek "the People's City" or "City of the People", was chosen to honor the democratic ideals behind the endeavor. First settled in 1817, it is one of the oldest continuous settlements in Alabama. It was incorporated on December 11, 1821.."
Organizing themselves first in Philadelphia, French expatriates petitioned the U.S. Congress to sell them property for land to colonize. Congress granted approval by an act on March 3, 1817 that allowed them to buy four townships in the Alabama Territory at $2 per acre, with the provision that they cultivate grape vines and olive trees. Following advice obtained from experienced Western pioneers, they determined that Alabama would provide a good climate for cultivating these crops. By July 14, 1817, a small party of pioneers had settled at White Bluff on the Tombigbee River, at the present site of Demopolis, founding the Vine and Olive Colony.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Demopolis AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a vital 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Demopolis residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Demopolis AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest