How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenville AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Greenville residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alabama Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Greenville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for Greenville AL lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous Greenville AL area community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 Greenville AL area program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent in Greenville AL and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials 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 training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at Greenville AL area community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Greenville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Alabama legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since Greenville AL employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other Greenville AL legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Greenville AL legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local Greenville AL legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within your local region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Greenville AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Greenville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Greenville AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Greenville home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Greenville AL.
More About Greenville Alabama
Greenville is a city in Butler County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 8,135. The city is the county seat of Butler County and is known as the Camellia City. The movement to change the official Alabama state flower from the goldenrod to the camellia originated in Greenville with legislative sponsors LaMont Glass and H.B. Taylor.
Greenville was first settled in 1819. Its original name was Buttsville, but after becoming the county seat in 1822, its name was changed to Greenville, in remembrance of the former locale in South Carolina of many of the original settlers. The first county seat was at Fort Dale, a fortification that was named for Sam Dale, who fought to defend the area during the Creek War. The site of Fort Dale lies on the north of the city near the Fort Dale Cemetery, along what is now Alabama Highway 185.
The namesake of the county, Captain William Butler, was killed during the Creek War. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, which is across from the oldest church in Butler County, the First United Methodist Church of Greenville.
Greenville is located in southern Alabama at 31°49'52.583" North, 86°37'39.241" West (31.831273, -86.627567).Interstate 65 passes to the west of the city center, with access from exits 128 and 130. U.S. Route 31 passes to the east of the city center. Montgomery, the state capital, is 44 miles (71 km) north, the closest city to Greenville with a population above 50,000.Mobile is 127 miles (204 km) to the southwest on I-65.
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