How to Find a Paralegal Program near Leeds Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Leeds AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Leeds homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Leeds AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Leeds AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Leeds AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Leeds AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Leeds AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Leeds AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Leeds AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Leeds AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Leeds AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Leeds AL?
If you live near Leeds 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.
Leeds is a tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties in the State of Alabama and is an eastern suburb of Birmingham. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 11,773.
The War of 1812, geography, geology, and three cultures shaped the history of Leeds. Lying at the crossroads of desecrated ancient Native-American paths in the center of Alabama, Leeds drew European and African-American settlers to a land of fertile growing seasons and rich sources of coal and mineral ore. The early settlers built churches and schools with many remaining in Cedar Grove, Oak Ridge, Ohanafeefee and Mt. Pleasant. The principal survey of Leeds was entered into Jefferson County Map Book 10, page 21, in 1908. The settlement, dating to 1818 and incorporating on April 27, 1887 as "Leeds", has existed along the banks of the Little Cahaba River; beside an historic stagecoach route; and along two large railroads for the greater part of American History.
James Hamilton, a Scottish-Irish American veteran of the War of 1812 and first sheriff of Shelby County, settled in Cedar Grove in 1816. John Richard Ingram Pashal Stewart, a Cherokee English teacher and American veteran of the War of 1812, settled at Ohanafeefee Village c.1840. At Oak Ridge in 1820 or 1821, European settlers formed Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first CPC congregation in middle Alabama. By 1887, the original railroad pioneers included free African-American settlers who came to work at the Leeds cement plant and the Central of Georgia as the Georgia Pacific railroads. Some gravitated to historic Mt. Pleasant Church where a handful of freed slaves had founded Scott City, Hillard Holley, Ciscero Davis, Jeff Harris, and Bill Johnson started Leeds Negro/Primary School in 1921.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Leeds AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Leeds home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Leeds AL.
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