How to Pick a Paralegal School near Oxford Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Oxford AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Oxford residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Oxford AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers 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 involved and quite 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 paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Oxford AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Oxford AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Oxford AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession 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 select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Oxford AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Oxford AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish 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 considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial 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’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Oxford AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Oxford AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Oxford AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary 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 address 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 school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Oxford AL?
If you live near Oxford 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.
Oxford is a city in Calhoun and Talladega counties in the State of Alabama. The population was 21,348 at the 2010 census, an increase of 46.3% since the 2000 Census. Oxford is one of two principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Founded in the early 1850s, Oxford was the first city in Calhoun County to be incorporated, in 1852. The name "Oxford" was due to the presence of a narrow crossing of Chocolocco Creek that allowed farmers to ford cattle from one side of the creek to the other. Since 1970, Oxford has annexed large amounts of land to the south and west, including the communities of Coldwater and Bynum. In 1970, it was all in Calhoun County, but today it includes areas in Talladega County.
A smaller municipality, Hobson City, was once a part of Oxford. The area, then known as the Mooree Quarter, is one square mile, and is located north and west of Oxford, and south and west of Anniston. In the last years of the 19th century, according to tradition, in the course of political elections, a black man managed to be elected justice of the peace in Oxford. This being unacceptable to the city fathers, they appealed to the powers in the state capital, and an 'arrangement' was made. The city boundaries were redrawn, in similar fashion to a gerrymander, and the quarter was excluded, becoming a town unto itself. The new town became incorporated on August 16, 1899 as Hobson City, taking the name of a naval hero of the Spanish–American War. The intention was that the largely black population of this quarter would no longer skew the elections of the now almost exclusively white Oxford. Another result was the creation of only the second town in the United States (after Eatonville, Florida) with 100% black government, and an almost 100% black population (at least at first).
Select the Best Legal Assistant School near Oxford AL
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Oxford home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Oxford AL.
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