How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near Gardendale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gardendale AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Gardendale homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Gardendale AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready 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 very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Gardendale AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain 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 also. Some 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address 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.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Gardendale AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Gardendale AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Gardendale AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Gardendale AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area 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 attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Gardendale AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Gardendale AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Gardendale 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 select provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Gardendale AL?
If you live near Gardendale 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.
A large farm settlement near the area today known as Gardendale was settled around 1825. Some years later, other settlers began to move into the community commonly known as Jugtown, a name given to the area based on the presence of a large jug and churn factory that operated in the area. Some years later, Hettie Thomason Cargo, a school teacher, would lead a campaign to change the name of the community. In 1906, the name Gardendale was selected, and in 1955, the City of Gardendale was officially incorporated. Today, with more than 13,000 residents (estimated), the city of Gardendale has grown to include more than 400 businesses, 4 schools, and 24 churches.
In 1996, the Olympic torch run passed through the city during the weeks leading up to the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in Atlanta. Before Interstate 65 was constructed, the main route between Nashville, Tennessee and Birmingham, Alabama was U.S. Route 31. Prior to being built as a four-lane road, U.S. 31 was a twisting two-lane road that is still largely visible today. From the north end of Gardendale, it is now Snow Rogers Road, North Road, Moncrief Road, and then Main Street southward through the city to the Fultondale city limit where it becomes Stouts Road. In the fall of 2008, new signs were placed along the original route of Stouts Road through Gardendale denoting its historical significance as a stagecoach route between Tennessee and Birmingham during the 19th century. The first traffic signals in the city were located along U.S. 31 at Tarrant Road, Fieldstown Road, and Moncrief Road as well as Tarrant Road at Pineywood Road. A new signal at the intersection of Fieldstown Road and Main Street near city hall replaced a blinking signal shortly thereafter. Fieldstown Road was a narrow two lane road from U.S. 31 westward until Interstate 65 was built and then Fieldstown Road was re-routed onto the new road in the mid-1980s. An abundance of traffic signals have been erected in the city since those early days. In approximately 1970, the city installed street lights along U.S. 31 from the Fultondale city limits northward to the Moncrief Road intersection. The technology at that time was for blue vapor lights. Today, nearly 40 years later those same blue vapor lights still exist with some being replaced with the more modern bulbs near major intersections. Since 1980, Gardendale has annexed considerable amounts of land on the north, east, and west sides. Much of the eastern area is uninhabited. The western annexation is centered along Fieldstown Road. Most of the newest residential development has been in this area and along Shady Grove Road south of Fieldstown Road. The northern annexation has centered along US 31 and extends nearly 2 miles (3.2 km) farther north than 1980. The city has a working historical society, established January 23, 2006, that is working to record the history of the Gardendale area. They have a museum that is open to the public on Saturday mornings each week. It contains a variety of photographs, documents, and other historical memorabilia from Gardendale.
Gardendale is located at 33°39′36″N 86°48′46″W / 33.66000°N 86.81278°W / 33.66000; -86.81278 (33.6601033, -86.8127702). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 18.0 square miles (47 km2), all land. However, with the recent annexation of several thousand acres from the community of Mt. Olive and other unincorporated areas, the city now has an estimated total area of around 25.0 square miles (65 km2). Gardendale is situated along one of the three major transportation corridors from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast (I-75, I-65, I-55). A tremendous volume of freight (via rail and truck) passes through or near Gardendale.
Paralegal Bachelor Degree Gardendale AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Bachelor Degree. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Gardendale residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Gardendale AL.
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