How to Pick a Paralegal School near Ashville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Ashville AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among 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 so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Ashville residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Ashville AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay 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 quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Ashville AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Ashville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare 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 prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at 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 choose should be accredited by a recognized 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 certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Ashville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Ashville AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School 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 present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Ashville AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire 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 might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Ashville AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Ashville AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Ashville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Ashville AL?
If you live near Ashville 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.
Ashville is a city in St. Clair County, Alabama, United States. Its population was 2,212 at the 2010 census, down from 2,260, at which time it was a town. Ashville is the county seat of St. Clair County along with Pell City. It incorporated in 1822.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen climate classification system, Ashville has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,260 people, 814 households, and 608 families residing in the town. The population density was 116.9 people per square mile (45.1/km2). There were 905 housing units at an average density of 46.8 per square mile (18.1/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 69.42% White, 26.55% Black or African American, 0.18% Native American, 0.18% Asian, 0.31% Pacific Islander, 1.81% from other races, and 1.55% from two or more races. 2.88% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Ashville AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Ashville home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Ashville AL.
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