How to Find a Paralegal Program near Anniston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Anniston AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Anniston residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Anniston AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep 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 quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Anniston AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed 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 job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Anniston AL area, in addition to 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 as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Anniston 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 accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Anniston AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Anniston AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Anniston AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Anniston AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Anniston AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Anniston AL?
If you live near Anniston 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.
Anniston is the county seat of Calhoun County in Alabama and is one of two urban centers/principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 23,106. According to 2013 Census estimates, the city had a population of 22,666.
Though the surrounding area was settled much earlier, the mineral resources in the area of Anniston were not exploited until the Civil War. The Confederate States of America then operated an iron furnace near present-day downtown Anniston, until it was finally destroyed by raiding Union cavalry in early 1865. Later, cast iron for sewer systems became the focus of Anniston's industrial output. Cast iron pipe, also called soil pipe, was popular until the advent of plastic pipe in the 1960s.
In 1872, the Woodstock Iron Company, organized by Samuel Noble and Union Gen. Daniel Tyler, rebuilt the furnace on a much larger scale, and started a planned community named Woodstock, soon renamed "Annie's Town" for Annie Scott Tyler, Daniel's daughter and wife of railroad president Alfred L. Tyler. Anniston was chartered as a town in 1873.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Anniston AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Anniston home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of 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 evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Anniston AL.
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