How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Andalusia Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Andalusia AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Andalusia residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Andalusia AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties 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 the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay 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 involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Andalusia AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Andalusia AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program 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 may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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. Numerous Andalusia AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Andalusia AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Andalusia AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Andalusia AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Andalusia AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Andalusia AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Andalusia AL?
If you live near Andalusia 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.
Andalusia was first settled in 1841 after flooding of the Conecuh River and the surrounding lowlands forced citizens to move to higher ground. The county seat was moved from Montezuma to Andalusia in 1844. The new town was originally called "New Site" but was known as Andalusia by the time a post office was established in 1846.
Andalusia, likely got its name from Spanish explorers or settlers since the land where the town is located was part of Spanish Florida until Pinckney's Treaty in 1795. Prior to this treaty, the Spanish Empire claimed all land up to 32.22 degrees north, which would include present day Andalusia which is at 31.31 degrees north. Andalusia shares the name of Andalusia, a large southern autonomous community of Spain.
Andalusia is located slightly northwest of the center of Covington County at 31°18′N 86°29′W / 31.300°N 86.483°W / 31.300; -86.483 (31.309, -86.479). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.8 square miles (51.3 km2), of which 19.7 square miles (50.9 km2) is land and 0.15 square miles (0.4 km2), or 0.79%, is water.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Andalusia AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Andalusia residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Andalusia AL.
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