How to Choose a Paralegal School near Cullman Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cullman AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Cullman residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Cullman AL with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Cullman AL paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, 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 limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Cullman AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Cullman AL.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Online paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Cullman AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Cullman AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, for instance 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Cullman AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Cullman AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Cullman AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Cullman AL local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Cullman AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Cullman AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Cullman AL?
Cullman is a city in and the county seat of Cullman County, Alabama, United States. It is located along Interstate 65, about 50 miles (80 km) north of Birmingham and about 55 miles (89 km) south of Huntsville. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 14,775, with an estimated population of 15,385 in 2017.
In the time before European settlement, the area that today includes Cullman was originally in the territory of the Cherokee Nation. The region was traversed by a trail known as the Black Warrior's Path, which led from the Tennessee River near the present location of Florence, Alabama, to a point on the Black Warrior River south of Cullman. This trail figured significantly in Cherokee history, and it featured prominently in the American Indian Wars prior to the establishment of the state of Alabama and the relocation of several American Indian tribes, including the Creek people westward along the Trail of Tears. During the Creek War in 1813, General Andrew Jackson of the U.S. Army dispatched a contingent of troops down the trail, one of which included the frontiersman Davy Crockett.
In the 1820s and the 1830s, two toll roads were built linking the Tennessee Valley to present-day Birmingham. In 1822, Abraham Stout was given a charter by the Alabama Legislature to open and turnpike a road beginning from Gandy's Cove in Morgan County to the ghost town of Baltimore on the Mulberry Fork near Colony. The road passed near present-day Vinemont through Cullman, Good Hope, and down the current Interstate 65 corridor to the Mulberry Fork. The road was later extended to Elyton (Birmingham) in 1827. It then became known as Stout's Road. Mace Thomas Payne Brindley was given a charter in 1833 to turnpike two roads, one running between Blount Springs to Somerville by way of his homestead in present-day Simcoe, and the second road passing west of Hanceville and east of Downtown Cullman to join Stout's Road north of the city. What later became the Brindley Turnpike became an extension of Stout's Road to Decatur. Cullman later became located between the juncture of the two roads, and they predated the corridor of U.S. Route 31.
During the Civil War, the future location of Cullman was the site of the minor Battle of Day's Gap. On April 30, 1863, Union forces under the command of Colonel Abel Streight won a victory over forces under Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. This battle was part of a campaign and chase known collectively as Streight's Raid. Although Streight got the upper hand in this battle, Forrest would have the last laugh. In one of the more humorous moments of the war, Streight sought a truce and negotiations with Forrest in present-day Cherokee County near present-day Gaylesville. Although Streight's force was larger than Forrest's, while the two were negotiating, Forrest had his troops march repeatedly in a circuitous route past the site of the talks. Thinking himself to be badly outnumbered, Streight surrendered to Forrest on the spot.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Cullman AL
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Cullman home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Cullman AL.
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