How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Geneva Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Geneva AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Geneva homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just 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 Geneva AL with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, 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 comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- 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 Geneva AL paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Geneva AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide 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 available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Geneva AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students in Geneva AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Geneva AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about 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 schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training 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 Geneva AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Geneva AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Geneva AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial 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? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Geneva AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. 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 accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Geneva AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Geneva AL, make sure 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, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Geneva AL?
Geneva is a city in and the county seat of Geneva County, Alabama, United States. It was incorporated in 1875. It is part of the Dothan, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. Since 1940, it has been the largest city of Geneva County, and had a population of 4,452 as of the 2010 census.
In late December 1862, the stern-wheel steamship Bloomer was in port on the Choctawhatchee River in Geneva. She was captured by a group of Union troops from the 91st New York Volunteers led by Lieutenant James H. Stewart. The Bloomer was then taken to Pensacola, Florida.
Geneva is located south of the center of Geneva County at 31°2′17″N 85°52′36″W / 31.03806°N 85.87667°W / 31.03806; -85.87667 (31.038181, -85.876677), at the confluence of the Pea River with the Choctawhatchee River. Alabama State Route 52 passes through the city north of downtown, leading northeast 11 miles (18 km) to Hartford and northwest 12 miles (19 km) to Samson. Dothan is 34 miles (55 km) to the northeast via Route 52. Alabama State Route 27 passes through the center of Geneva, leading north 22 miles (35 km) to Enterprise and southwest 5 miles (8 km) to the Florida border.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.1 square miles (41.6 km2), of which 15.9 square miles (41.1 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km2), or 1.17%, is water. The Choctawhatchee River forms the eastern border of the city, flowing south to Choctawhatchee Bay in Florida, which enters the Gulf of Mexico at Destin.
Choose the Best Paralegal Training near Geneva AL
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Geneva residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school 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, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Geneva AL.
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