How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Huntsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Huntsville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus 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 commuting range of their Huntsville residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, just 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Huntsville AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Huntsville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Huntsville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Huntsville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Huntsville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Huntsville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Huntsville AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Huntsville AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Huntsville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Huntsville AL?
If you live near Huntsville 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.
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County and south into Morgan County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 census. Huntsville is the third-largest city in Alabama and the largest city in the five-county Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area, which at the 2013 census estimate had a total population of 683,871. The Huntsville Metropolitan Area's population was 417,593 in 2010 to become the 2nd largest in Alabama. Huntsville metro's population reached 441,000 by 2014.
It grew across nearby hills north of the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command nearby at the Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list.
The first settlers of the area were Muscogee-speaking people. The Chickasaw traditionally claim to have settled around 1300 after coming east across the Mississippi. A combination of factors, including depopulation due to disease, land disputes between the Choctaw and Cherokee, and pressures from the United States government had largely depopulated the area prior to 1805. That year Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt settled in the land around the Big Spring. The 1805 Treaty with the Chickasaws and the Cherokee Treaty of Washington of 1806 ceded native claims to the United States Government. The area was subsequently purchased by LeRoy Pope, who named the area Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Huntsville AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Huntsville residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, 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. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Huntsville AL.
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