How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near New Brockton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near New Brockton AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their New Brockton homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help New Brockton AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in New Brockton AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the New Brockton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of New Brockton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several New Brockton AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the New Brockton AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer 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 graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the New Brockton AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in New Brockton AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near New Brockton AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near New Brockton AL?
If you live near New Brockton 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.
New Brockton, Alabama
New Brockton is located east of the center of Coffee County at 31°22′52″N 85°55′28″W / 31.38111°N 85.92444°W / 31.38111; -85.92444 (31.381138, -85.924339). The city of Enterprise is directly to the southeast.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,146 people, 469 households, and 327 families residing in the town. The population density was 143 people per square mile (55.4/km²). There were 561 housing units at an average density of 70.1 per square mile (27.1/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 70.1% White, 21.0% Black or African American, 5.5% Native American, 0.2% from other races, and 2.7% from two or more races. 2.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 469 households out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.3% were married couples living together, 15.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.3% were non-families. 27.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 2.97.
Find the Right Legal Assistant College near New Brockton AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your New Brockton home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that 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 acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in New Brockton AL.
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