How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Trussville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Trussville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Trussville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have 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 for the most part 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 are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Trussville AL with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting 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 role of a Trussville AL paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Trussville AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Trussville AL.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for those in Trussville AL looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing Trussville AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential 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 issues to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Trussville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Trussville AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Trussville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason 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 live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within your Trussville AL local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Trussville AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Trussville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Trussville AL?
Trussville is a city in Jefferson and St. Clair counties in the State of Alabama. It is a suburb of Birmingham and part of the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its estimated 2015 population was 21,023.
Trussville has been recognized as one of the most livable cities in the state and country. It was named one of the ten best towns in Alabama for young families, listed among the five best Birmingham suburbs, and included in Money magazine's list of 100 best places to live in America.
The first European settler to establish residence in the area was Warren Truss, who entered the area with his brothers and constructed a grist mill on the Cahaba River in 1821. Truss was a North Carolina man of English descent. Trussville remained an agricultural community until after the Civil War, when the Alabama-Chattanooga Railway was built through the city. By 1886 a blast furnace was built on what is now the site of the new Cahaba Elementary School. Trussville was listed as an incorporated community on the 1890 and 1900 U.S. Census rolls. At some point after 1900 until its reincorporation in 1947, it did not appear on census records.
Much of Trussville's growth and development came from the Cahaba Project, a planned development of over 250 homes constructed by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Government Resettlement Administration during the 1930s. The Cahaba Project was originally planned by staff at the Alabama Polytechnic Institute to be a rural community of small farmsteads raising potatoes and vegetables. By the middle of the decade it was decided to locate the community close enough to Birmingham to commute by public transit, so the site in Trussville was chosen. About 60 existing houses were demolished, with white residents moved to the Roper Hill community and cottages for African-Americans built on a 40-acre tract northwest of the Cahaba Project called "Washington Heights" or, more commonly, "The Forties".
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Trussville AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Trussville residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Trussville AL.
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