How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Jefferson Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Jefferson AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Jefferson homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Jefferson AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Jefferson AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career 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 benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Jefferson AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn 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 as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Jefferson AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Jefferson AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Jefferson AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. 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 wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Jefferson AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Jefferson AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Jefferson AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Jefferson AL?
If you live near Jefferson 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.
Al Ricardo Jefferson (born January 4, 1985) is an American professional basketball player for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). He played high school basketball for Prentiss High School in Mississippi before skipping college to enter the 2004 NBA draft, where he was drafted 15th overall by the Boston Celtics. He has previously played for the Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers.
Born in Monticello, Mississippi, Jefferson attended Prentiss High School in the small nearby town of Prentiss from 2000 to 2004. After starting for his varsity team as a freshman at Prentiss, he became one of the elite players in the country as a junior, drawing the attention of both college coaches around the country, and the scouts of the NBA. In his senior year for the Bulldogs, he averaged an astounding 42.6 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks per game as his Bulldogs team went on to lose in the Mississippi state class 3A semi-finals to Byhalia High School 88-73, in which Jefferson finished with 56 points.
Considered a five-star recruit by Rivals.com, Jefferson was listed as the No. 1 center and the No. 4 player in the nation in 2004. He had originally committed to Arkansas, but opted instead to make the jump to the NBA straight out of high school.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Jefferson AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Jefferson home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Jefferson AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest