How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program near Piedmont Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Piedmont AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Piedmont residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have 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
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Piedmont AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Piedmont AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Piedmont AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation 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 effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Piedmont AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Piedmont AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Piedmont AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the Piedmont AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, 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 also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Piedmont AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Piedmont AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Piedmont AL?
If you live near Piedmont 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.
Piedmont is a city in Calhoun and Cherokee counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. The population was 4,878 at the 2010 census. It is included in the Anniston-Oxford, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. The city is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes West of Atlanta, one and a half hours North East of Birmingham, twenty minutes North of Anniston, Alabama and twenty five minutes east of Gadsden, Alabama. The campus of Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama is approximately ten miles South of Piedmont. The city is located in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountain chain and is surrounded by mountains on the city's southern and eastern sides. The area is home to Duggar Mountain, which is Alabama's second highest point, only trailing Mt. Cheaha by a small margin. Piedmont is a popular tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts due to its close proximity to many nearby hiking trails, streams and rivers, mountains, the Duggar Mountain Wilderness, the Talladega National Forret and Coleman Lake. Weiss Lake is fourteen miles North of Piedmont and is known as "The Crappie Capital of the World." Piedmont is home to Terrapin Creek, which is a popular destination for kayaking, canoing, camping, swimming and fishing. Piedmont is also home to the Chief Ladiga Trail, which is a paved trail for walking, jogging and bicycling. The trail runs through downtown Piedmont and runs all the way to Atlanta to the East and to Anniston, Alabama to the South and West. Two state highways, AL-9 and AL-21 run through the city limits of Piedmont, as well as US Highway 278. The city and surrounding area is served by the Centre-Piedmont-Cherokee County Regional Airport, which was constructed in 2010. Many surrounding communities are served by the 36272 ZIP code, including Spring Garden, Rock Run, Knighten's Crossroads, and Nance's Creek. The current mayor is Bill Baker, who was chosen by the city council to lead after elected mayor Rick Freeman resigned due to medical issues.
The area now known as Piedmont is a community that began in the early 1840s, located at the crossroads of two early post roads. Major Jacob Forney Dailey of North Carolina came to Alabama in 1848 and bought land in present-day Piedmont. Major Dailey named the area Cross Plains, and an official post office with that name was established on September 22, 1851.
In Reconstruction-era Alabama, an incident at Cross Plains affected race relations and the future of the northeast section of the state for generations as a result of the lynching of William Luke, a northern missionary, and several other men in 1870. In that year, the new northern-owned railroad to connect Washington, D.C. and the North with New Orleans was to have its headquarters near the small northeast Alabama town, at Patona. After the Ku Klux Klan-led lynchings, however, the headquarters was moved, and the town never achieved the dominant position in Calhoun County, with Anniston, founded the next year, achieving that status instead.
How Many Years Of College To Be A Paralegal Piedmont AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How Many Years Of College To Be A Paralegal. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Piedmont home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect 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 school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Piedmont AL.
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