How to Select a Paralegal Program near Jacksonville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Jacksonville AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Jacksonville residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 Jacksonville 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 functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Jacksonville AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Jacksonville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 significant issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Jacksonville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Jacksonville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Jacksonville 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 pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive 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 reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Jacksonville AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Jacksonville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Jacksonville 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 enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Jacksonville AL?
If you live near Jacksonville 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.
Jacksonville is a city in Calhoun County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 12,548, which is a 49% increase since 2000. It is included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. Jacksonville State University is located here, which is a center of commerce and one of the largest employers in the area.
Jacksonville was founded in 1833 on land purchased from Creek Indian Chief "Du-Hoag" Ladiga. First called Drayton, the town was renamed to honor President Andrew Jackson in 1834. There are a couple Civil War monuments in town, including a statue of Major John Pelham in the city cemetery and a statue of a Confederate soldier in the middle of the square. Jacksonville served as the county seat for Calhoun County until the 20th century when it moved to Anniston. Jacksonville State University was founded here in 1883.
An EF3 tornado hit Jacksonville on March 19, 2018, causing extensive damage to the city and Jacksonville State University, almost $42 million in damages. The relatively low number of casualties, specifically just four injuries, was attributed by some to the fact that the university was on spring break at the time. More than 1,000 volunteers assisted in the immediate tornado relief. Caleb Howard, then a senior at Jacksonville State University, said that "[i]t's been amazing to see the university and the community come together." Classes resumed at the university the following month. Although the university's usual site for graduation, Pete Mathews Coliseum, was damaged in the tornado along with over 20 other buildings, the first spring graduation since the tornado proceeded as scheduled on May 4 outside the football stadium. Dr. John Beeler, the university's president, said "It's a joyous event generally because you're celebrating the accomplishments of all your graduates, but it's an even more joyous event because to me it's a celebration of how far we've come in a short time in recovering from these tornadoes."
Select the Right Paralegal Training near Jacksonville AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Jacksonville home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Jacksonville AL.
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