How to Choose a Paralegal School near Arlington Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Arlington AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Arlington homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take 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
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Arlington AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, 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 firm may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents 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 provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Arlington AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Arlington AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, such as 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Arlington AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Arlington AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Arlington AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Arlington AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost 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 available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Arlington AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Arlington 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 enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Arlington AL?
If you live near Arlington 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.
Arlington County, Virginia
Arlington County is a county in the Commonwealth of Virginia, often referred to simply as Arlington or Arlington, Virginia. In 2016, the county's population was estimated at 230,050, making it the sixth-largest county in Virginia, or the fourth-largest city if it were incorporated as such. It is the 5th highest-income county in the U.S. by median family income, and has the highest concentration of singles in the region.
The county is coterminous with the U.S. Census Bureau's census-designated place of Arlington. Though a county, it is also treated as the second-largest principal city of the Washington metropolitan area.
The county is situated in Northern Virginia on the southwestern bank of the Potomac River directly across from Washington, D.C., of which it was once a part. With a land area of 26 square miles (67 km2), Arlington is the geographically smallest self-governing county in the U.S., and by reason of state law regarding population density, has no incorporated towns within its borders. Due to the county's proximity to downtown Washington, D.C., Arlington is home to many important installations for the capital region and U.S. government, including the Pentagon, Reagan National Airport, and Arlington National Cemetery. Many schools and universities have campuses in Arlington, most prominently the Antonin Scalia Law School of George Mason University.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant Program near Arlington AL
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Arlington home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Arlington AL.
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