How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Hatchechubbee Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hatchechubbee AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Hatchechubbee homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 Hatchechubbee AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Hatchechubbee AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Hatchechubbee 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 if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 crucial factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Hatchechubbee AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 call several Hatchechubbee AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Hatchechubbee AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want 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 want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Hatchechubbee AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Hatchechubbee AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Hatchechubbee AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Hatchechubbee AL?
If you live near Hatchechubbee 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.
Russell County, Alabama
Russell County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, the population was 52,947. Its county seat is Phenix City. Its name is in honor of Colonel Gilbert C. Russell, who fought in the wars against the Creek Indians.
Russell County was established by an act of the state general assembly on December 18, 1832, from lands ceded to the state by the Creek Native Americans. The county seat has changed several times: Girard (1833–1839), Crawford originally Crockettsville (1839–1868), Seale (1868–1935) and Phenix City (1935–present). It was named for War of 1812, Col. Gilbert Christian Russell, Sr., 1782–1861, 3rd U.S. Infantry.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 52,947 people residing in the county. 53.7% were White, 41.8% Black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 0.4% Native American, 0.2% Pacific Islander, 1.3% of some other race and 2.1% of two or more races. 3.7% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant Training near Hatchechubbee AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Hatchechubbee home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Hatchechubbee AL.
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