How to Select a Paralegal Program near Marion Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Marion AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Marion residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alabama Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Marion AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform 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 firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for Marion AL attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous Marion AL area community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Marion AL area program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available in Marion AL and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at Marion AL area junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Marion AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Alabama paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since Marion AL employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law firms 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 ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other Marion AL legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Marion AL legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area Marion AL legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire 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 may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your local area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Marion AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Marion AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal School near Marion AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Marion home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Marion AL.
More About Marion Alabama
Marion is a city in, and the county seat of, Perry County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 3,686, up 4.8% over 2000. First known as Muckle Ridge, the city was renamed after a hero of the American Revolution, Francis Marion.
Formerly the territory of the Creek Indians, it was founded shortly after 1819 as Muckle Ridge. The city was renamed in honor of Francis Marion, the "Swamp Fox," hero of the American Revolutionary War, in 1822. It incorporated as a town the same year and also became the second county seat after the hamlet of Perry Ridge was unsuitable. In 1829, it upgraded from a town to a city. From the very early days, Marion created considerable history for a small town on the western frontier of Alabama. The old City Hall (1832) is but one of many antebellum public buildings, churches, and homes in the city today.
At the 1844 meeting of the Alabama Baptist State Convention in Marion, the "Alabama Resolutions" were passed. This was one of the factors that led to the 1845 formation of the Southern Baptist Convention in Augusta, Georgia.
Judson College was founded in 1838 and Marion Military Institute after Howard College moved in 1887. Howard College, initially the location of the current Marion Military Institute, was founded in Marion in 1842, and moved to Birmingham in 1887, later becoming Samford University. A groundbreaking school for African Americans, the Lincoln Normal School, was founded here in 1867. The associated Lincoln Normal University for Teachers moved to Montgomery and became Alabama State University. In 1889, Marion Military Institute was chartered by the State of Alabama and today is the oldest military junior college in the nation.
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