How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Albertville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Albertville AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Albertville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Albertville AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Albertville AL paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Albertville AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Albertville AL.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those in Albertville AL looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater 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 considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Albertville AL area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Albertville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Albertville AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional 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 offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Albertville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire 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 need to first look at those schools that are within your Albertville AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Albertville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Albertville AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Albertville AL?
The area which today includes Albertville was inhabited by the Cherokee Indians until their removal to Oklahoma in the 1830s. It was, however, near the territory of the Creek nation, and several major trails which afforded communication (or military action) between the two nations crossed the area. It is believed to have been crossed by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto during his expeditions in 1540.
The first non-indigenous settlement in what is today Albertville began in the 1850s, and the settlement was named for Thomas A. Albert, an early settler who moved from Georgia and was a town leader until his death in 1876. The city was incorporated in 1891. A post office was established in 1910.
At about 4:10 p.m. on April 24, 1908, the city was virtually wiped out by a tornado that became commonly called "The Great Cyclone," or "The Cyclone of 1908." The storm is believed to have killed 35 people across northeastern Alabama, including 15 in Albertville. Relief was largely delivered by railroad, particularly from the nearby city of Gadsden. Trains from Gadsden transported doctors, nurses, and the Queen City Guards, the Alabama militia company based in Gadsden. The commander of the latter, future Gadsden mayor and Col. R.A. Mitchell, reported in a dispatch to Governor B.B. Comer:
In 1893, the Alabama Legislature passed an act for the erection of an agricultural college in each of the state's Congressional districts. After some competition, Albertville was awarded the school for the Seventh District. This is the school that evolved into today's Albertville High School, whose sports teams are still known as the "Aggies."
Select the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Albertville AL
Choosing the right paralegal training 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 option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Albertville residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Albertville AL.
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