How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Newton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Newton AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Newton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Newton AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Newton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Newton AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Newton AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 Newton AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Newton AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Newton AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Newton AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Newton AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Newton AL?
If you live near Newton 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.
Cameron Jerrell Newton (born May 11, 1989) is an American football quarterback for the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League (NFL). He played college football at Auburn and was drafted as the first overall pick by the Panthers in the 2011 NFL Draft. Newton is the only player in the modern era to be awarded the Heisman Trophy, win a national championship, and become the first overall pick in an NFL draft within a one-year span. He was the 2011 NFL Rookie of the Year, is a three-time Pro Bowler, and was named the NFL MVP in 2015.
In his rookie year, Newton broke all-time NFL rookie records for passing and rushing yards. He became the first NFL quarterback to throw for 400 yards in his first game, shattering Peyton Manning's first-game record by 120 yards. He also broke Otto Graham's 61-year-old record for passing yards by any quarterback in an NFL debut. Newton went on to become the first rookie quarterback to throw for 4,000 yards in a season. He also ran for 14 touchdowns, more in a single season than any quarterback in NFL history, breaking Steve Grogan's 35-year-old record.
In 2015, Newton became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 30 touchdowns and rush for 10 in the same season (35 passing, 10 rushing). He also became the only quarterback ever to have 300 yards passing, 5 touchdown passes, and over 100 yards rushing in the same game. Newton capped off the 2015 season by capturing MVP honors and leading the Panthers to a 15–1 record and a trip to Super Bowl 50.
Enroll in the Best Legal Assistant School near Newton AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an important 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Newton home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Newton AL.
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