How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Pelham Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pelham AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Pelham residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Pelham AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by 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 routine activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since 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 alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Pelham AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Pelham AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 already covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Pelham AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Pelham AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Pelham AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Pelham AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Pelham AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Pelham AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Pelham AL?
If you live near Pelham 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.
Pelham is a city in Shelby County, Alabama, United States. It incorporated in July 1964. At the 2000 census the population was 14,369, but has grown to 21,352 recorded by the 2010 census. It was named for Confederate American Civil War officer John Pelham.
As of the census of 2000, there were 14,369 people, 5,637 households, and 4,002 families residing in the city. The population density was 378.2 people per square mile (146.0/km²). There were 5,894 housing units at an average density of 155.1 per square mile (59.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 90.02% White, 3.97% Black or African American, 0.35% Native American, 1.68% Asian, 2.82% from other races, and 1.16% from two or more races. 6.42% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 5,637 households out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.3% were married couples living together, 8.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.0% were non-families. 25.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.8% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.05.
Find the Best Legal Assistant Program near Pelham AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Pelham residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Pelham AL.
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