How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Haleyville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Haleyville AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely 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 numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Haleyville residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Haleyville AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Haleyville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Haleyville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include 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 covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few 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 Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Haleyville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Haleyville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Haleyville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Haleyville AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Haleyville AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Haleyville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Haleyville AL?
If you live near Haleyville 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.
Haleyville is a city in Winston and Marion counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. It incorporated on February 28, 1889. Most of the city is located in Winston County, with a small portion of the western limits entering Marion County. Haleyville was originally named Davis Cross Roads, having been established at the crossroads of Byler Road and the Illinois Central Railroad. At the 2010 census the population was 4,173, down slightly from 4,182 in 2000.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,182 people, 1,815 households, and 1,148 families residing in the city. The population density was 563.9 people per square mile (217.6/km²). There were 2,061 housing units at an average density of 277.9 per square mile (107.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 94.81% White, 1.48% Black or African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.12% Asian, 2.68% from other races, and 0.74% from two or more races. 3.11% of the population were Latino of any race.
There were 1,815 households out of which 26.6% had children under the age of 52 living with them, 49.3% were married couples living together, 11.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.7% were non-families. 34.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 17.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.25 and the average family size was 2.87.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Training near Haleyville AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Haleyville residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Haleyville AL.
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