How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Clayton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clayton AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Clayton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Clayton AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level 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 work, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Clayton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Clayton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School 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 can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Clayton AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Clayton AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Clayton AL legal community. Ask 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 most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Clayton AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Clayton AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Clayton AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Clayton AL?
If you live near Clayton 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.
Clayton has been the county seat since 1834, two years after the creation of Barbour County. Clayton is located geographically in the center of the county. The town was located at the headwaters of the Pea and Choctawhatchee rivers on the historic road from Hobdy's Bridge over the Pea River to Eufaula on the Chattahoochee River. By 1818, there were a few settlers in the area around Clayton, but settlement began in earnest around 1823. The town was named for Augustine S. Clayton, a Georgia jurist and congressman. Clayton became the county seat of Barbour County in 1833 and was laid out on a central courthouse square plan. The first Circuit Court was held in Clayton on September 23, 1833. The Clayton post office was established in September 1835 with John F. Keener as postmaster. Clayton, with a population of 200, was incorporated on December 21, 1841, by the Alabama Legislature. Its first mayor, after incorporation, was John Jackson.
Clayton has a rich heritage with four properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Clayton is also known for its Whiskey Bottle Tombstone, which was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Clayton has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Clayton AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Clayton home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Clayton AL.
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