How to Select a Paralegal School near Jackson Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Jackson AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Jackson residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Jackson AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Jackson AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Jackson 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 if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Jackson AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Jackson AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Jackson AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Jackson AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Jackson AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Jackson AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Jackson AL?
If you live near Jackson 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.
Al Jackson Jr.
Albert J. Jackson Jr. (November 27, 1935 – October 1, 1975) was an American drummer, producer, and songwriter. He was a founding member of Booker T. & the M.G.'s, a group of session musicians who worked for Stax Records and produced their own instrumentals. Jackson was affectionately dubbed "The Human Timekeeper" for his drumming ability. He was inducted into the Memphis Music Hall of Fame in 2015.
Jackson's father, Al Jackson Sr., led a jazz/swing dance band in Memphis, Tennessee. The young Jackson started drumming at an early age and began playing on stage with his father's band in 1940, at the age of five. He later played in producer and trumpeter Willie Mitchell's band and at the same time was holding down a chair in the popular Ben Branch Band.
Future bandmates Steve Cropper and Donald "Duck" Dunn first heard Jackson playing in Mitchell's band at the Flamingo Room, and the all-white Manhattan Club. Mitchell had also hired Booker T. Jones for his band. It was Jones who suggested Jackson be brought to Stax. He said, "You guys need to know about Al." Dunn said that Jackson almost caused his wife to divorce him, because after finishing his own gig at one o'clock, he would stop by a club to hear Jackson and would get home at four or five in the morning; "He was that good!" said Dunn. At first, Jackson was reluctant to join Stax. He felt he could make more money playing live than doing session work. He wanted a guaranteed regular salary to come over to Stax (although he continued to play on sessions produced by Mitchell for Hi Records). And so he became the first Stax session musician to be on a weekly salary.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant Training near Jackson AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Jackson residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Jackson AL.
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