How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Scottsboro Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Scottsboro AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Scottsboro homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very 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 ought to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Scottsboro AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited 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 are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Scottsboro AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Scottsboro AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Scottsboro AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Scottsboro AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Scottsboro AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Scottsboro AL region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Scottsboro AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Scottsboro AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
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 schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Scottsboro AL?
If you live near Scottsboro 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.
Scottsboro is a city in Jackson County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 14,770. Named for its founder Robert Scott, the city is the county seat of Jackson County.
From its incorporation in 1870 until 1890, it was the largest community in Jackson County, losing the distinction from 1900 to 1920 to Bridgeport, but reclaiming the title in 1930 and holding it since that time.
It is located 30 miles each from the state boundaries of Georgia to the east (Dade County) and Tennessee to the north, about 45 miles from Huntsville, Alabama to the west and about 55 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee to the northeast.
Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Scottsboro AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an essential 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Scottsboro residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several 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 selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Scottsboro AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest