How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Pell City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pell City AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right 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 more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Pell City residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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 hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Pell City AL with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Pell City AL paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Pell City AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Pell City AL.
Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those in Pell City AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Pell City AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Pell City AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Pell City AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Pell City AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within your Pell City AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Pell City AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Pell City AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Pell City AL?
Pell City, Alabama
Pell City is a city in St. Clair County, Alabama, United States. The city is the county seat of St. Clair County along with Ashville. At the 2000 census the population was 9,565. At the 2010 census, the city-limit population jumped to 12,695.
Pell City was founded in 1890 by railroad investors and named after George Pell of the Pell City Iron and Land Company, one of its financial backers. The city was incorporated on May 6, 1891, but nearly failed during the Panic of 1893. However, it was revived in 1902 when Sumter Cogswell built the Pell City Manufacturing Company, which subsequently became Avondale Mills, a major landmark of the town until Thunder Enterprises, a Tennessee company, bought the building and began dismantling the factory in 2008. However, on February 14, 2008 a fire started at the mill. The fire was so large it could be seen from the Chula Vista/ Springville exit on Interstate 20 (I20). It was a sad ending for the factory. However, the smokestack and water tower still stood. The mill was the economic and social center of the town during its development and early growth. Besides the textile mill, other economic endeavors included agriculture and mercantile establishments. Large cotton, soybean, and cattle farms were located in the area. Pell City increased its size in 1956 when the nearby towns of Eden and Oak Ridge were merged with the city. The first mayor was Green Evans.
The residences of Sumter Cogswell and Green Evans (Pell City’s first mayor) are two of the earliest structures, dating from the late nineteenth century. The majority of the historic structures date from 1902 to 1905.
Ashville, Alabama, in the northern part of St. Clair County, was the only county seat from 1821 to 1907. A constitutional amendment in 1907 established Pell City as the second county seat. For many years, St. Clair County was the only county in the country with two full-service county seats. Both county seats remain operational to this day although Pell City has far outstripped Ashville in growth thanks in no small part to the convergence of both I-20 and Logan Martin Lake.
Choose the Right Paralegal School near Pell City AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an essential 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Pell City residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Pell City AL.
Other Cool Cities in Alabama