How to Pick the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Ashland Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ashland AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Ashland residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Ashland AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific 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 trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases 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 requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Ashland AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Ashland AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 previously covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Ashland AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Ashland AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Ashland AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Ashland AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Ashland AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Ashland AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Ashland AL?
If you live near Ashland Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Clay County was formed by an act of the Alabama General Assembly on December 7, 1866. Less than a year later, Ashland was established as the county seat on land donated by Hollingsworth Watts for the construction of a courthouse. Ashland was incorporated in 1871 and was named for 19th century statesman Henry Clay's Kentucky estate home.
During the early years, the town grew very rapidly. The town continued to grow with the opening of Alabama's first graphite mine in 1899. When World War I ended, the market for graphite dropped drastically, thus ending the town's growth phase.
The 1930s brought the Great Depression and boll weevil to Ashland that destroyed the cotton industry. Farmers were forced to abandon what had been the community's major industry. Timber, poultry, and cabinet making became the dominant industries by the beginning of the 21st century.
Paralegal Online Classes Ashland AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Online Classes. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Ashland home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Ashland AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest