How to Pick a Paralegal School near Addison Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Addison AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Addison residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Addison AL attorneys 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 relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather 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 they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Addison AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Addison AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Addison AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Addison AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind 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 provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Addison AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Addison AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Addison AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Addison 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, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Addison AL?
If you live near Addison 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.
As of the 2010 Census Addison had a population of 757. The population was 99.1% white, 0.1% black or African American, 0.1% Asian, 0.7% from two or more races and 0.4% Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2000, there were 723 people, 315 households, and 219 families residing in the town. The population density was 205.7 people per square mile (79.5/km²). There were 339 housing units at an average density of 96.5 per square mile (37.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 99.45% White, 0.14% Black or African American, 0.14% Native American, 0.14% Asian, and 0.14% from two or more races. 0.14% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 315 households out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.0% were married couples living together, 12.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.2% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.30 and the average family size was 2.78.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal School near Addison AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Addison home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types 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. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Addison AL.
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