How to Find a Paralegal Program near Ashland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Ashland AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the best 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 a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Ashland homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Ashland AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Ashland AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Ashland AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Ashland AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Ashland 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 though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Ashland AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Ashland AL area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Ashland AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Ashland AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain 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 conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Ashland AL?
If you live near Ashland 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.
Clay County was formed by an act of the Alabama General Assembly on December 7, 1866. Less than a year later, Ashland was established as the county seat on land donated by Hollingsworth Watts for the construction of a courthouse. Ashland was incorporated in 1871 and was named for 19th century statesman Henry Clay's Kentucky estate home.
During the early years, the town grew very rapidly. The town continued to grow with the opening of Alabama's first graphite mine in 1899. When World War I ended, the market for graphite dropped drastically, thus ending the town's growth phase.
The 1930s brought the Great Depression and boll weevil to Ashland that destroyed the cotton industry. Farmers were forced to abandon what had been the community's major industry. Timber, poultry, and cabinet making became the dominant industries by the beginning of the 21st century.
Select the Best Paralegal School near Ashland AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Ashland home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Ashland AL.
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