How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Loxley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Loxley AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Loxley homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 assist Loxley AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 start your career as a legal assistant in Loxley AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Loxley AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 already covered, there are other critical issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Loxley AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Loxley AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Loxley AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Loxley AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained 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 as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Loxley AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Loxley AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, 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 because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary 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 cover 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Loxley AL?
If you live near Loxley 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.
Loxley is a town in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the town was 1,632. It is part of the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area. Loxley is becoming a popular location for the expansion of the suburbs from Daphne and Spanish Fort, Alabama, because it is served by an Interstate 10 exit and is almost directly between the cities of Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.
In 1870, a man from Chicago by the name of John Loxley established a lumber camp in the area previously known as Bennet. The lumber camp included a commissary and saw mill. The men that traveled with Loxley settled in what later became the town of Loxley. John Loxley returned to Chicago when the lumber was exhausted.
The train depot opened on May 5, 1906, on the Fort Morgan Line. Before that, there were only wagon roads to Bay Minette. Also in 1906, the Loxley post office was opened by Octavia Sauer. She served as the postmistress and depot agent. By 1920, the businesses in Loxley consisted of an egg store, grocery store, two general merchandise stores, train depot, drug store, telegraph office, land office, repair garage, post office, bank, hotel, butcher shop, orange packing shed, cement block plant, a blacksmith, a feed and lumber store. A grammar school was built in 1925.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Loxley AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Loxley home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection 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 carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Loxley AL.
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