How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Saraland Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Saraland AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Saraland residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered 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 roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Saraland AL with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Saraland AL paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Saraland AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Saraland AL.
Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those in Saraland AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Saraland AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 important factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may 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 standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Saraland AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Saraland AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Saraland AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within your Saraland AL local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Saraland AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Saraland AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Saraland AL?
Saraland is a city in Mobile County, Alabama, United States, and a suburb of Mobile. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 13,405. It is a part of the Mobile metropolitan area. Saraland is the third largest city in Mobile County.
The land area that was to become the present-day Saraland, was included in a Spanish land grant to Don Diego Alvarez. Hence, descendants of Alvarez were the ones to give the community its first name: Alvarez Station. Later land squatters moved into the area and were able, legally, in 1800 to begin purchasing property. In 1807, a land office was opened in St. Stephens to handle all land transactions. Some of the pioneer families who seized the opportunity to buy up sections were named Alvarez, Rice, Hartley, Moore, LaCoste, Williams, Tool and Cleveland. Ultimately, Alvarez Station was called Cleveland Station. The present name of the city is reported to have been given by C.J. DeWitt, a retired minister editor who moved south in 1890 for health reasons. He opened the first post office on the Southern Railroad in 1895. The community is purported to be the namesake of his beloved wife, Sara.
Saraland was sparsely populated during the first part of the 20th century, until an industrial and population boom occurred in neighboring Mobile. Northward expansion of Mobile in the 1940s and 50s brought about the incorporation of Saraland in 1957. At the time of incorporation, the city reported only 125 residents. By the 1960 U.S. Census, annexations had swelled the population to 4,595. In 1980, census figures cited 9,844 Saraland residents. Current census records report that as of 2000, Saraland's population has grown to 12,288.
The worst rail disaster in the history of Amtrak occurred near Saraland on Big Bayou Canot on September 22, 1993. At approximately 2:53 AM, Amtrak's Sunset Limited train, powered by three locomotives, and en route from Los Angeles, California to Miami, Florida with 220 passengers and crew aboard, crossed the Bayou Canot bridge at high speed and derailed at a kink in the track caused by a barge captain who rammed the bridge by making a wrong turn in the waterway, and failed to report the accident. Forty-seven people, of whom 42 were passengers, were killed, many by drowning, others by fire. Much of the rescue efforts were average citizens of the community who journeyed out in the early morning hours in small fishing boats to help at the scene.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Saraland AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Saraland residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Saraland AL.
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