How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Theodore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Theodore AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Theodore homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Theodore AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Theodore AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though 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. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Theodore AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Theodore AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Theodore AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Theodore AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Theodore AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Theodore AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Theodore AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Theodore AL?
If you live near Theodore 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.
Theodore is a census-designated place (CDP) in Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The population was 6,130 at the 2010 census. It is a part of the Mobile metropolitan statistical area. Prior to 1900 this area was known as Clements, but is now named for William Theodore Hieronymous (a sawmill operator and postmaster).
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,811 people, 2,483 households, and 1,926 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 571.6 people per square mile (220.6/km²). There were 2,697 housing units at an average density of 226.3 per square mile (87.4/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 71.11% White, 25.58% Black or African American, 0.62% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.41% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. 1.38% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,483 households out of which 38.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married couples living together, 19.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.4% were non-families. 19.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.11.
Find the Right Paralegal Program near Theodore AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Theodore residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Theodore AL.
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