How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Hartselle Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hartselle AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Hartselle residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Hartselle AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Hartselle AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 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 Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Hartselle AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can 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 the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, for instance 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Hartselle AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Hartselle AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which 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 outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Hartselle AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially 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 hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. 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 first look at those colleges that are within the Hartselle AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Hartselle AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Hartselle AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those 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 ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Hartselle AL?
If you live near Hartselle 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.
Hartselle is the second largest city in Morgan County, Alabama, United States, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Decatur, and is included in the Decatur Metropolitan Area, and the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of the city was 14,255. Hartselle was founded in 1870 with the arrival of the South and North Alabama Railroad. It takes its name from George Hartsell, one of the railroad's owners. The post office opened in 1873. It was formally incorporated on March 1, 1875. Most of the oldest buildings were destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1916.
Hartselle is located at 34°26′25″N 86°56′25″W / 34.44028°N 86.94028°W / 34.44028; -86.94028Coordinates: 34°26′25″N 86°56′25″W / 34.44028°N 86.94028°W / 34.44028; -86.94028 (34.440383, -86.940385).
Select the Ideal Paralegal Training near Hartselle AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Hartselle residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Hartselle AL.
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