How to Find a Paralegal School near Tuscumbia Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tuscumbia AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Tuscumbia residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Tuscumbia AL with a wide variety of job functions, 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, 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 level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Tuscumbia AL paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Tuscumbia AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Tuscumbia AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals in Tuscumbia AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly 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 discuss in more detail later. But at the very least 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 considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Tuscumbia AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Tuscumbia AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Tuscumbia AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tuscumbia AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent 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? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea 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 area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within your Tuscumbia AL local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Tuscumbia AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Tuscumbia AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Tuscumbia AL?
Tuscumbia was the hometown of Helen Keller (Ivy Green) and much of the city is listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Tuscumbia Historic District. The city serves as the location for the Alabama Music Hall of Fame.
Tuscumbia had its beginnings when the Michael Dixon family arrived about 1816. They traded with Chief Tucumseh for the Tuscumbia Valley and built their home at the head of the big spring. From these humble dwellings quickly developed a village known as the Big Spring Community. The men of the community requested that the state legislature incorporate them as a city. The town was incorporated in 1820 as Ococoposa and is one of Alabama's oldest towns. In 1821, its name was changed to Big Spring and on December 22, 1822, to Tuscumbia, after the Chief Rainmaker of the Chickasaws.
Although shoals on the nearby Tennessee River made the river nearly impassable, a federal highway completed in 1820 provided the area with good access to markets. Tuscumbia soon became the center for agriculture in northern Alabama. A line to the town on the Tuscumbia, Courtland and Decatur Railroad was completed in 1832, and by 1850 Tuscumbia was a major railroad hub for train traffic throughout the South.
Tuscumbia is located northeast of the center of Colbert County at 34°43′51″N 87°42′10″W / 34.73083°N 87.70278°W / 34.73083; -87.70278 (34.730839, -87.702854). It is bordered to the north by the city of Sheffield and to the northeast by the city of Muscle Shoals. The Tennessee River is 1 mile (1.6 km) to the northwest.
Choose the Right Paralegal Training near Tuscumbia AL
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Tuscumbia home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Tuscumbia AL.
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