How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Wetumpka Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wetumpka AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, 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 most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Wetumpka residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 fill the same job roles and functions, 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 Wetumpka AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Wetumpka AL paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Wetumpka AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Wetumpka AL.
Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students in Wetumpka AL searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Wetumpka AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Wetumpka AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Wetumpka AL paralegal programs 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 make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Wetumpka AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within your Wetumpka AL local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Wetumpka AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wetumpka AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Wetumpka AL?
Wetumpka is a city in and the county seat of Elmore County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 6,528. In the early 21st century, Elmore County, long a rural area, became one of the fastest-growing counties in the state. The city is considered part of the Montgomery Metropolitan Area.
Wetumpka identifies as "The City of Natural Beauty". Among the notable landmarks are the Wetumpka crater and the Jasmine Hill Gardens, with a full-sized replica of the Temple of Hera of Olympia, Greece. Historic downtown Wetumpka developed on both sides of the Coosa River. It was near Fort Toulouse, built by French colonists in 1717, when they had claimed this territory for the king.
The word Wetumpka is derived from the Muscogee language (Creek) phrase we-wau tum-cau. The name Wetumpka is a historic Creek place word meaning "rumbling waters", believed to be a description of the sound of the nearby Coosa River at the rapids of the Devil's Staircase. The roar of the rapids reportedly could be heard for miles before the construction in the 20th century of Walter Bouldin Dam and Jordan Dam, when the river was captured as a reservoir behind the dam.
After being forced west to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma), by United States soldiers under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Muscogee named their major settlement there Wetumka, after their historic village.
Find the Right Paralegal Training near Wetumpka AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wetumpka residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Wetumpka AL.
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