How to Pick a Paralegal School near Alabaster Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Alabaster AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Alabaster residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must 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 each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Alabaster AL with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Alabaster AL paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Alabaster AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive 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 an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Alabaster AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those in Alabaster AL looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Alabaster AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Alabaster AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Alabaster AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law practices that you may have an interest 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 ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Alabaster AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within your Alabaster AL local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Alabaster AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Alabaster AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Alabaster AL?
Alabaster is a city and southern suburb of Birmingham in Shelby County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 30,352. According to the 2013 Census Estimates, the city had a population of 31,342. Alabaster is the 16th largest city in Alabama by number of residents.
Alabaster mostly occupies the Cahaba and Opossum Valleys, which are divided by the Pine Ridge that runs north to south. To the east and west, both valleys are flanked by parallel mountain ridges that locally run north to south, but are a part of a larger system of ridges that generally runs north-east to south-west (the tailing ends of the Appalachian foothills). The valleys are drained by small creeks (Buck Creek, Beaverdam Creek) which flow into the Cahaba River.
George L. Scott, Sr., an Alabaster pioneer, owned and operated Alabaster Lime Co. His shipping point was known as “Scott Rock”. Later, housing was built to accommodate some of the employees, and the community acquired its name Alabaster from the "white calcium carbonate mineral". The First Bank of Alabaster opened in 1952, and its president was George L. Scott, Jr., who later became the first mayor of Alabaster. The first attempt in 1952 to incorporate Alabaster failed. In January 1953, the petition was again filed, and on February 23, 1953, Alabaster was officially incorporated with a favorable vote of 79 to 23, and 427 residing inhabitants. In 1955, the Alabaster Water and Gas Board was formed.
As of the census of 2010, there were 30,352 people, 11,016 households, and 6,482 families residing in the city .The population density was 1,104.8 people per square mile (426.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.2% White,15.0% Black or African American, 0.31% Native American, 0.64% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 2.2% from other races, and 0.69% from two or more races. 4.54% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Alabaster AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Alabaster home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide 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 prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Alabaster AL.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
Area of study: Certificate in Paralegal Studies. Ideal for: Professionals interested in working with attorneys in all areas of civil and criminal law as a paralegal and who wish to meet the educational requirements dictated by California Law. Current paralegals who seek to differentiate themselves with an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies Certificate.