How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Greenville homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Greenville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Greenville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Greenville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected 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 distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Greenville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Greenville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Greenville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after 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 assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs 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 large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Greenville AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Greenville AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Greenville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Greenville AL?
If you live near Greenville 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.
Greenville is a city in Butler County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 8,135. The city is the county seat of Butler County and is known as the Camellia City. The movement to change the official Alabama state flower from the goldenrod to the camellia originated in Greenville with legislative sponsors LaMont Glass and H.B. Taylor.
Greenville was first settled in 1819. Its original name was Buttsville, but after becoming the county seat in 1822, its name was changed to Greenville, in remembrance of the former locale in South Carolina of many of the original settlers. The first county seat was at Fort Dale, a fortification that was named for Sam Dale, who fought to defend the area during the Creek War. The site of Fort Dale lies on the north of the city near the Fort Dale Cemetery, along what is now Alabama Highway 185.
The namesake of the county, Captain William Butler, was killed during the Creek War. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, which is across from the oldest church in Butler County, the First United Methodist Church of Greenville.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Greenville AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Greenville residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Greenville AL.
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