How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Summerdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Summerdale AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Summerdale homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take 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 essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Summerdale AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Summerdale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Summerdale AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Summerdale AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Summerdale AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. 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 offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Summerdale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Summerdale AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Summerdale AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Summerdale AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or 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 can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Summerdale AL?
If you live near Summerdale 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.
Summerdale is a rural town in south-central Baldwin County, Alabama, United States. It is the site of the Naval Outlying Field Summerdale. At the 2010 census the population was 862. It is part of the Daphne–Fairhope–Foley Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Summerdale is located at 30°29'15.468" North, 87°42'4.036" West (30.487630, -87.701121).Alabama State Route 59 passes along the west side of the town, leading north 5 miles (8 km) to Robertsdale and south 6 miles (10 km) to Foley.
As of the census of 2000, there were 655 people, 255 households, and 184 families residing in the town. The population density was 125.7 people per square mile (48.5/km²). There were 282 housing units at an average density of 54.1 per square mile (20.9/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 90.23% White, 4.89% Black or African American, 1.07% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.92% from other races, and 2.75% from two or more races. Nearly 2.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant College near Summerdale AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an important 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 at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Summerdale residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter 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 review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Summerdale AL.
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