How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Oakman Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Oakman AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Oakman homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Oakman AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, 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 abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Oakman AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Oakman AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to research also, such as 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Oakman AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Oakman AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Oakman AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Oakman AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Oakman AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Oakman AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Oakman AL?
If you live near Oakman 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.
Oakman is a town in Walker County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 789, down from 944 in 2000. Initially named Day (or Day's) Gap, it was renamed Oakman and incorporated in 1895.
As of the census of 2000, there were 944 people, 386 households, and 265 families residing in the town. The population density was 303.1 people per square mile (117.2/km²). There were 449 housing units at an average density of 144.1 per square mile (55.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 79.66% White, 19.60% Black or African American, and 0.74% from two or more races. 0.74% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 386 households out of which 34.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.9% were married couples living together, 16.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.3% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.02.
Select the Ideal Paralegal School near Oakman AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree 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 at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Oakman residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Oakman AL.
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