How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Hazel Green Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hazel Green AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Hazel Green homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, 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 assist Hazel Green AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Hazel Green AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Hazel Green 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 if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Hazel Green AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 call some Hazel Green AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Hazel Green AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish 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 first consider those colleges that are within the Hazel Green AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Hazel Green AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Hazel Green AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Hazel Green AL?
If you live near Hazel Green 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.
Hazel Green, Alabama
Hazel Green is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Madison County, Alabama, United States, and is included in the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the community was 3,630. The 2010 estimated population for the Hazel Green zip code 35750 was 12,783.
The town was named Hazel Green because of the hazel bushes along the road were of a vibrant green. In the early 19th century, several farmers from Georgia and the Carolinas settled in Hazel Green after discovering that the area had some of the richest soil in the Southeast. A post office was built in 1819 on the southeast corner of the intersection now known as Hwy. 231-431 & Joe Quick Road. Several grocers and rest stops were also built along this intersection. It became a bustling community and incorporated into a town on June 15, 1821 by an act of the state legislature with a population of approximately 400. At the time, Hazel Green was a small, rural community that served as a crossroads. Roads connected Hazel Green with Athens to the west, Winchester, TN to the east, Huntsville to the south, and Nashville to the north. These roads intersected at what is now known as the intersection of US Highway 231/431, Joe Quick Road, and West Limestone Road. The town eventually became unincorporated and despite recent growth, remains unincorporated to this day.
After several months of rumors and speculation, Walmart began construction of a Supercenter on the southwest corner of US Highway 231/431 and Charity Lane in June 2014. This brought attention to several local residents and media outlets, as Walmart typically does not build supercenters in unincorporated areas. After completion in March 2015, the store attracted several other businesses in the same vicinity, including multiple fast food restaurants and shopping centers. As of December 2016, Zaxby's, Burger King, Arby's, Papa Murphy's Pizza, Taco Bell, AT&T, Great Clips, Dollar Tree, Hibbett Sports, Verizon, and Pet Depot make up the list of new businesses in the area. Hazel Green is slated for continued residential and commercial growth in the upcoming years.
Select the Right Legal Assistant School near Hazel Green AL
Choosing the right 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 on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Hazel Green residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Hazel Green AL.
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