How to Pick a Paralegal School near Clio Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clio AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Clio residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Clio AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour 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 noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Clio AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Clio AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 important issues to consider as well, such as 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Clio AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Clio AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Clio AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Clio AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Clio AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Clio AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Clio AL?
If you live near Clio 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.
Clio is a city in Barbour County, Alabama, United States. The population was 1,399 at the 2010 census, down from 2,206 in 2000, at which time it was a town. It is the birthplace of former Alabama governor George C. Wallace, as well as Baseball Hall of Famer and current Atlanta Braves broadcaster Don Sutton.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,399 people, 514 households, and 321 families residing in the town. The population density was 139 people per square mile (53.7/km2). There were 634 housing units at an average density of 62.7 per square mile (24.3/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 36.5% Black or African American, 32.0% White, 0.4% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 30.2% from other races, and .4% from two or more races. 36.0% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 514 households out of which 28.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.4% were married couples living together, 19.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.5% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.37.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Clio AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Clio home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Clio AL.
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