How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Ashford Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ashford AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Ashford homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Ashford AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel 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. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Ashford AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Ashford AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can 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 prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Ashford AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Ashford AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Ashford AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement 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 corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary 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 wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Ashford AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Ashford AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Ashford AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Ashford AL?
If you live near Ashford AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Ashford is a town in Houston County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Dothan, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town was incorporated in June 1891. For most of its history, it was a center for naval stores production, pulpwood harvesting, and cotton agriculture. The population was 2,148 at the 2010 census, up from 1,853 at the 2000 census.
Ashford is located slightly northeast of the center of Houston County at 31°11′3″N 85°14′7″W / 31.18417°N 85.23528°W / 31.18417; -85.23528 (31.184032, -85.235286).U.S. Route 84 passes through the southern part of the town, leading west 9 miles (14 km) to Dothan and southeast 24 miles (39 km) to Donalsonville, Georgia. The Chattahoochee River, which forms the Georgia state line, is 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Ashford on US 84.
Ashford's former mayor is Jonathon Grecu, he resigned from office on December 31, 2017. On January 8, 2018 Carole Barfield took office. As of October 2018, the current mayor is Carole Barfield, and City Council members are Gary Gibson, Ronnie Whitehead, Alan Anderson, James Smith, and Denise Herndon. The recreation director for the City of Ashford is Louis Edmondson. The City Clerk is currently open for employment.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal College near Ashford AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Ashford residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Ashford AL.
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