How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Rainbow City Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Rainbow City AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive 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 a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Rainbow City residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alabama Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Rainbow City AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they 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 Rainbow City AL attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous Rainbow City AL area community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited Rainbow City AL area program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available in Rainbow City AL and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools 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 caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at Rainbow City AL area junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 discussed, there are other important aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Rainbow City 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 programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Alabama legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since Rainbow City AL employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other Rainbow City AL legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Rainbow City AL legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local Rainbow City AL legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Rainbow City AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Rainbow City AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Rainbow City AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Rainbow City home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Rainbow City AL.
More About Rainbow City Alabama
Rainbow City, Alabama
This city was named after U.S. Highway 411, called Rainbow Drive, which runs through the middle of the city. Some of the older citizens say it was named after the US 42nd Infantry Division, known as the "Rainbow Division".
As early as 1818, families from the Carolinas and Georgia began to migrate to the area and homestead land near the Coosa River. Hernando de Soto's troops were the first visitors to the area in 1540, and today a bridge stands where the Pensacola Trading Path crossed the Coosa River. A paved highway now traces the trail that was cut from Nashville to Horseshoe Bend by Andrew Jackson on his way to fight the Creek Native Americans in what is now known as the Battle of Horseshoe Bend.
Originally called "Coosa Bend", the area was later called "Morgan's Cross Road". It was located at the intersection of the Gadsden-Ashville Road and Gilbert's Ferry Road. The land was passed from Edmond Jones to his son Clayton, who never married. When he died, the land passed to his sister, Luvica Morgan, who was also the wife of William Morgan.
Knowing the importance of education, John Sheffield Jones, the grandson of Edmond Jones, an original settler, donated $1,000 and the land for the construction of the first John S. Jones Elementary School. Later, John S. Jones burned to the ground and a new elementary school was built and serves the Rainbow City area today. Rainbow Middle School and the Westbrook Christian School, also serve the Rainbow City students today.
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