How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Pennington Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Pennington AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Pennington homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have 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 basically both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Pennington AL with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Pennington AL paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Pennington AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Pennington AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals in Pennington AL looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary 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 cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Pennington AL area schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Pennington AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Pennington AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when 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 an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Pennington AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable 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’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. 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 want to initially consider those schools that are within your Pennington AL local region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Pennington AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Pennington AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Pennington AL?
As of the census of 2000, there were 353 people, 142 households, and 103 families residing in the town. The population density was 188.6 people per square mile (72.9/km²). There were 197 housing units at an average density of 105.3 per square mile (40.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 64.31% White, 34.84% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.57% from other races.
There were 142 households out of which 35.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.2% were married couples living together, 15.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.8% were non-families. 26.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 2.98.
In the town, the population was spread out with 28.6% under the age of 18, 6.5% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 13.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.6 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $32,917, and the median income for a family was $44,375. Males had a median income of $33,438 versus $16,250 for females. The per capita income for the town was $14,022. About 13.7% of families and 20.9% of the population were below the poverty line, including 21.8% of those under age 18 and 10.8% of those age 65 or over.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Pennington AL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an important 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 Pennington residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Pennington AL.
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