How to Pick a Paralegal School near Hanceville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hanceville AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely 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 so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Hanceville residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, 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 as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, just 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Hanceville AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare 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 challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Hanceville AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Hanceville AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Hanceville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Hanceville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Hanceville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? 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 wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Hanceville AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Hanceville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Hanceville AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Hanceville AL?
If you live near Hanceville 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.
Founded in Blount County, Hanceville was incorporated in May 1879. At the time of Cullman County's creation in 1877, half of Hanceville resided in each county. In 1885, county boundaries were redrawn and all of Hanceville was placed within Blount County. In 1901, county boundaries were redrawn again and this time all of the town was placed within Cullman County, for which it has remained.
Hanceville is located in southeastern Cullman County at 34°3′48″N 86°45′39″W / 34.06333°N 86.76083°W / 34.06333; -86.76083 (34.063463, -86.760908).U.S. Route 31 passes through the city, leading north 9 miles (14 km) to Cullman, the county seat, and south 14 miles (23 km) to Smoke Rise.
As of the census of 2000, there were 2,951 people, 1,167 households, and 710 families residing in the city. The population density was 718.6 people per square mile (277.2/km²). There were 1,323 housing units at an average density of 322.2 per square mile (124.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 93.09% White, 4.61% Black or African American, 0.61% Native American, 0.07% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 0.75% from other races, and 0.85% from two or more races. 2.30% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Find the Ideal Paralegal School near Hanceville 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 addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Hanceville home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community 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 career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hanceville AL.
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