How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Program near Greenville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Greenville AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Greenville residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, only 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 assist Greenville AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare 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 complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide 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 really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Greenville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Greenville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Greenville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Greenville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Greenville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Greenville AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Greenville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Greenville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Greenville AL?
If you live near Greenville 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.
Greenville is a city in Butler County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census, the population was 8,135. The city is the county seat of Butler County and is known as the Camellia City. The movement to change the official Alabama state flower from the goldenrod to the camellia originated in Greenville with legislative sponsors LaMont Glass and H.B. Taylor.
Greenville was first settled in 1819. Its original name was Buttsville, but after becoming the county seat in 1822, its name was changed to Greenville, in remembrance of the former locale in South Carolina of many of the original settlers. The first county seat was at Fort Dale, a fortification that was named for Sam Dale, who fought to defend the area during the Creek War. The site of Fort Dale lies on the north of the city near the Fort Dale Cemetery, along what is now Alabama Highway 185.
The namesake of the county, Captain William Butler, was killed during the Creek War. He is buried in the Pioneer Cemetery, which is across from the oldest church in Butler County, the First United Methodist Church of Greenville.
What Degree Do You Need To Be A Paralegal Greenville AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is an essential 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 What Degree Do You Need To Be A Paralegal. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Greenville residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Greenville AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest