How to Find the Right Paralegal Program near Pleasant Grove Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pleasant Grove AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need 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 alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Pleasant Grove homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Pleasant Grove AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial 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 understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Pleasant Grove AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Pleasant Grove AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Pleasant Grove AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Pleasant Grove AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Pleasant Grove AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Pleasant Grove AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Pleasant Grove AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. 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 formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Pleasant Grove AL?
If you live near Pleasant Grove 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.
Pleasant Grove, Alabama
It was established in 1889, but incorporated as a city in January 1937. The incorporation came about by reason of a rather unusual circumstance. The town sits on land honeycombed by coal mines. For many years the residents had relied on water wells for their water supply. As years passed and more mining was done, Pleasant Grove found itself confronted with a problem. Residents would sometimes go to their well to draw water only to find there was none. The water had gone into the mines.
During the mid to late 30s, the Federal Government had a program for financing the building of local water systems. In exploring the possibility of securing such funds, it was revealed that in order to secure such financing a community must be legally incorporated. At this time the incorporation became a reality.
The first appointed Mayor of Pleasant Grove was W.P. Stone. The city is governed by a mayor and five council members who serve four-year terms. Elections for city officials is held during the summer of each leap year with four-year terms beginning the first Monday in October. The area known as Pleasant Grove, Alabama was first homesteaded in September 1836. Pleasant Grove is in Jefferson County. Although no one seems to know when or exactly how the town came by its name, old documents indicate that at least part of this area was called Pleasant Grove as early as 1884. Pleasant Grove was made up of four communities which included Frog Pond, Lizard Ridge, Cottage Hill, and Pleasant Grove.
Degree For Paralegal Pleasant Grove AL
Selecting the right legal assistant training program is a crucial 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 Degree For 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 comfort and privacy of your Pleasant Grove home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance 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 provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Pleasant Grove AL.
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