How to Pick a Paralegal School near Piedmont Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Piedmont AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among 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? Many potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Piedmont residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential 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 educational 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 responsibilities, just 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 Piedmont AL with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Piedmont AL paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, 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 clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Piedmont AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Piedmont AL.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for students in Piedmont AL looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Piedmont AL area schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially 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 searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Piedmont AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Piedmont AL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Piedmont AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want 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 wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Piedmont AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Piedmont AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Piedmont AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Piedmont AL?
Piedmont is a city in Calhoun and Cherokee counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. The population was 4,878 at the 2010 census. It is included in the Anniston-Oxford, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. Many surrounding communities are served by the 36272 ZIP code, including Spring Garden, Rock Run, Knighten's Crossroads, and Nance's Creek. The current mayor is Bill Baker, who was chosen by the city council to lead after elected mayor Rick Freeman resigned due to medical issues.
The area now known as Piedmont is a community that began in the early 1840s, located at the crossroads of two early post roads. Major Jacob Forney Dailey of North Carolina came to Alabama in 1848 and bought land in present-day Piedmont. Major Dailey named the area Cross Plains, and an official post office with that name was established on September 22, 1851.
In Reconstruction-era Alabama, an incident at Cross Plains affected race relations and the future of the northeast section of the state for generations as a result of the lynching of William Luke, a northern missionary, and several other men in 1870. In that year, the new northern-owned railroad to connect Washington, D.C. and the North with New Orleans was to have its headquarters near the small northeast Alabama town, at Patona. After the Ku Klux Klan-led lynchings, however, the headquarters was moved, and the town never achieved the dominant position in Calhoun County, with Anniston, founded the next year, achieving that status instead.
Wall Street financier Franklin Delano, uncle of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was president of the railroad at the time. The railroad sponsored a school for African-American children of freedmen, and Luke was the teacher. Word spread in the area that Luke was teaching racial equality, and resentment developed against him in the northern Calhoun County area. The railroad was planning to use the graduates as a source of students for Talladega College who might then go on to work for the railroad. A racial fight at the Cross Plains station gave rise to arrests of certain freedmen, and then of Luke as well. Klansmen then seized the prisoners and murdered them. Congressional hearings followed, with strengthened civil rights laws, but the murderers were never properly punished.
Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Piedmont AL
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Piedmont home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education 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 ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Piedmont AL.
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