How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Excel Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Excel AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career 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 achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Excel homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Excel AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Excel AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Excel AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Excel AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Excel AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Excel AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Excel AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Excel AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Excel AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive 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 agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Excel AL?
If you live near Excel 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.
Excel is the birthplace of former University of Alabama and Dallas Cowboys linebacker Lee Roy Jordan. Excel High School (3A) provides education for children in and around the town of Excel. Businesses within the town include Dollar General, post office, a "do-it-yourself" car wash, a laundromat, hardware store, a locally-run diner and one bank.
As of the census of 2010, there were 723 people, 270 households, and 205 families residing in the town. The population density was 425.3 people per square mile (168.1/km2). There were 295 housing units at an average density of 173.5 per square mile (68.6/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 91.1% White, 5.0% Black or African American, 1.4% Native American, 0.1% some other race, and 2.4% from two or more races. 0.7% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 270 households out of which 41.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.6% were headed by married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.1% were non-families. 21.5% of all households were made up of individuals, and 10.4% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68, and the average family size was 3.11.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Program near Excel AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Excel home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Excel AL.
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