How to Select a Paralegal School near Eufaula Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Eufaula AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Eufaula homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Eufaula AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Eufaula AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose 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 job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Eufaula AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can 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 searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Eufaula AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Eufaula AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Eufaula AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Eufaula AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Eufaula AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Eufaula AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Eufaula AL?
If you live near Eufaula 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 site along the Chattahoochee River that is now modern-day Eufaula was occupied by three Creek tribes, including the Eufaulas.:3 By the 1820s the land was part of the Creek Indian Territory and supposedly off-limits to white settlement.:4 By 1827 enough illegal white settlement had occurred that the Creeks appealed to the federal government for protection of their property rights. In July of that year, federal troops were sent to the Eufaula area to remove the settlers by force of arms, a conflict known as the "Intruders War".:4
The Creeks signed the Treaty of Washington in 1826, ceding most of their land in Georgia and eastern Alabama to the United States, but it was not fully effective in practice until the late 1820s. The 1832 Treaty of Cusseta, by which the Creeks ceded all land east of the Mississippi River to the United States, allowed white settlers to legally buy land from the Creek. However, the treaty's terms did not require any natives to relocate. By 1835 the land on which the town was built had been mostly purchased by white settlers, and had a store, owned in part by William Irwin, after whom the new settlement was named "Irwinton".:5
Significant numbers of Jewish settlers came to Eufala in the middle of the nineteenth century from Germany and from neighboring states. The community founded a cemetery; the first burial took place in 1845.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Eufaula AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a crucial 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Eufaula residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Eufaula AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest