How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Headland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Headland AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Headland homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Headland AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Headland AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Headland 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 especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Headland AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Headland AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Headland AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Headland AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Headland AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Headland AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Headland AL?
If you live near Headland 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.
Headland is the largest city in Henry County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Dothan, Alabama metropolitan area. At the 2010 census the population was 4,510, up from 3,523 at the 2000 census. Ray Marler is the current mayor.
The Headland Public Square was laid off in 1871 by J.J. Head with a vision for a branch courthouse. Henry County voters decided in the 1879 and 1885 courthouse site elections not to locate a courthouse on the public square. Henry has been Alabama's only county with three courthouses at the same time.
Headland incorporated in 1884 with 26 white and 4 black petitioners. The railroad was built in 1893 along with the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad Depot. The depot was added to the National Register of Historic Places on September 4, 1980. It has since been disassembled.
Select the Best Legal Assistant School near Headland AL
Selecting the best paralegal educational 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 option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Headland residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Headland AL.
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