How to Find the Right Legal Assistant Program near Centreville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Centreville AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Centreville homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Centreville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Centreville AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Centreville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Centreville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Centreville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Centreville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Centreville AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Centreville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Centreville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Centreville AL?
If you live near Centreville 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.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Centreville has a total area of 9.6 square miles (24.9 km2), of which 9.5 square miles (24.5 km2) are land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 1.52%, is water.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Centreville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
Centreville is the site of the highest recorded temperature in the state of Alabama. On September 6, 1925, the temperature in Centreville reached the state record of 112 ºF. The data below are for the years 1916 to 1974.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Paralegal Centreville AL
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How Long Does It Take To Become A Paralegal. But as we have addressed 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 Centreville home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Centreville AL.
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