How to Choose a Paralegal Training Program near Killen Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Killen AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Killen homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Killen AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide 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 really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Killen AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will discuss the advantages 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.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Killen AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Killen AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Killen AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember 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 provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Killen AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Killen AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. 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 assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Killen AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Killen AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Killen AL?
If you live near Killen 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.
Killen is a town in Lauderdale County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Florence - Muscle Shoals Metropolitan Statistical Area known as "The Shoals". It was incorporated in 1957. As of the 2010 census, the population of the town is 1,108, down from its record high of 1,119 in 2000.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,119 people, 435 households, and 338 families residing in the town. The population density was 585.0 people per square mile (226.2/km²). There were 484 housing units at an average density of 253.0 per square mile (97.8/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 95.26% White, 2.23% Black or African American, 0.45% Asian, 1.61% from other races, and 0.45% from two or more races. 2.59% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Of the 435 households, 35.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.9% were married couples living together, 7.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.1% were non-families. 18.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57, and the average family size was 2.94.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Degree Program near Killen AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a crucial 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 at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Killen home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community 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 profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of 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 examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Killen AL.
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