How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Oneonta Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Oneonta AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Oneonta homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices 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 functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Oneonta AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Oneonta AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Oneonta AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Oneonta AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Oneonta AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Oneonta AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out 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 substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Oneonta AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include 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 contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Oneonta AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Oneonta AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Oneonta AL?
If you live near Oneonta 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.
Oneonta is a city in Blount County, Alabama, United States. At the 2010 census the population was 6,567. The city is the county seat of Blount County. Oneonta is home to the Covered Bridge Festival.
A post office called Oneonta has been in operation since 1889. The city was named after Oneonta, New York, the native home of a railroad official. In 1889, the county seat was transferred to Oneonta from Blountsville.
Oneonta is located in eastern Blount County at 33°56'32.291" North, 86°28'43.586" West (33.942303, -86.478774). It is situated in Murphree Valley between Red Mountain and Sand Mountain to the northwest and Straight Mountain to the southeast.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Oneonta AL
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an essential 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Oneonta residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Oneonta AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 3