How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Livingston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Livingston AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Livingston residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Livingston AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including 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 trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. 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 limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Livingston AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous 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 get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Livingston AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Livingston AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Livingston AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Livingston AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire 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 need to first look at those schools that are within the Livingston AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Livingston AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Livingston AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Livingston AL?
If you live near Livingston 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.
Livingston is a city in Sumter County, Alabama, United States. By an act of the state legislature, it was incorporated on January 10, 1835. At the 2010 census the population was 3,485, up from 3,297 in 2000. The city is the county seat of Sumter County. It was named in honor of Edward Livingston, of the Livingston family of New York.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 3,485 people residing in the city. 63.8% were African American, 34.4% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander and 0.6% of two more races. 0.7% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,297 people, 1,368 households, and 731 families residing in the city. The population density was 463.1 people per square mile (178.8/km²). There were 1,586 housing units at an average density of 222.8 per square mile (86.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 60.78% Black or African American, 37.82% White or Caucasian, 0.18% Asian, 0.15% Native American, 0.30% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 1.43% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Find the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Livingston AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Livingston residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Livingston AL.
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