How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Program near Saraland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Saraland AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Saraland homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Saraland AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally 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 adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Saraland AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Saraland AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Saraland AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Saraland AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Saraland AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement 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 students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Saraland AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Saraland AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Saraland AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Saraland AL?
If you live near Saraland Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Saraland is a city in Mobile County, Alabama, United States, and a suburb of Mobile. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 13,405. It is a part of the Mobile metropolitan area. Saraland is the third largest city in Mobile County.
The land area that was to become the present-day Saraland, was included in a Spanish land grant to Don Diego Alvarez. Hence, descendants of Alvarez were the ones to give the community its first name: Alvarez Station. Later land squatters moved into the area and were able, legally, in 1800 to begin purchasing property. In 1807, a land office was opened in St. Stephens to handle all land transactions. Some of the pioneer families who seized the opportunity to buy up sections were named Alvarez, Rice, Hartley, Moore, LaCoste, Williams, Tool and Cleveland. Ultimately, Alvarez Station was called Cleveland Station. The present name of the city is reported to have been given by C.J. DeWitt, a retired minister editor who moved south in 1890 for health reasons. He opened the first post office on the Southern Railroad in 1895. The community is purported to be the namesake of his beloved wife, Sara.
Saraland was sparsely populated during the first part of the 20th century, until an industrial and population boom occurred in neighboring Mobile. Northward expansion of Mobile in the 1940s and 50s brought about the incorporation of Saraland in 1957. At the time of incorporation, the city reported only 125 residents. By the 1960 U.S. Census, annexations had swelled the population to 4,595. In 1980, census figures cited 9,844 Saraland residents. Current census records report that as of 2017, Saraland's population is estimated to have grown to 14,576.
Paralegal Education Online Saraland AL
Enrolling in the right legal assistant degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Education Online. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Saraland home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Saraland AL.
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