How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Butler Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Butler AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Butler homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Butler AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon 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 firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Butler AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Butler AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization 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 education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Butler AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Butler AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Butler AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. 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 large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Butler AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Butler AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Butler AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Butler AL?
If you live near Butler 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.
When Choctaw County was formed in 1847, Butler was created as the county seat. The town was located and settled in 1848. It is named in honor of Colonel Pierce Butler, a soldier killed in the Mexican–American War.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,894 people, 826 households, and 488 families residing in the city. The population density was 340 inhabitants per square mile (130/km2). There were 958 housing units at an average density of 171 per square mile (66/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 71.4% White, 26.7% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, and 0.7% from two or more races. 0.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 826 households out of which 25.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.5% were married couples living together, 17.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.9% were non-families. 37.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.14 and the average family size was 2.84.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Butler AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Butler home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Butler AL.
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