How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Hayden Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hayden AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Hayden residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Hayden AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Hayden AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Hayden AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Hayden AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Hayden AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Hayden AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the Hayden AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Hayden AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Hayden AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent 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 certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Hayden AL?
If you live near Hayden 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.
Hayden is located in southwestern Blount County at 33°53'36.236" North, 86°45'25.139" West (33.893399, -86.756983). Hayden Mountain is a broad, low ridge that rises to the northwest above the town. Alabama State Route 160 passes through the center of the town, leading 5 miles (8 km) southwest to Interstate 65 north of Warrior, and northeast 13 miles (21 km) to Cleveland.
At the 2000 census, there were 470 people, 191 households and 136 families residing in the town. The population density was 499.1 per square mile (193.1/km²). There were 207 housing units at an average density of 219.8 per square mile (85.0/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 91.91% White, 6.60% Black or African American, 0.64% Native American, 0.43% Asian, and 0.43% from two or more races. 0.21% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 191 households of which 35.6% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.2% were married couples living together, 10.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.3% were non-families. 26.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.98.
Select the Best Legal Assistant Training near Hayden AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 Hayden home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hayden AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 3