How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Leeds Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Leeds AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Leeds residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part 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 belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Leeds AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, 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 clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Leeds AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want 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 improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the benefits 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.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Leeds AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to consider as well, including 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Leeds AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to 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 school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Leeds AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember 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 establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Leeds AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting 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. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Leeds AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Leeds AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Leeds AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Leeds AL?
If you live near Leeds 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.
Leeds is a tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties in the State of Alabama and is an eastern suburb of Birmingham. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 11,773.
The War of 1812, geography, geology, and three cultures shaped the history of Leeds. Lying at the crossroads of ancient Native-American paths in the center of Alabama, Leeds drew European and African-American settlers to a land of fertile growing seasons and rich sources of coal and mineral ore. The early settlers built churches and schools with many remaining in Cedar Grove, Oak Ridge, Ohanafeefee and Mt. Pleasant. The principal survey of Leeds was entered into Jefferson County Map Book 10, page 21, in 1908. The settlement, dating to 1818 and incorporating on April 27, 1887 as "Leeds", has existed along the banks of the Little Cahaba River; beside an historic stagecoach route; and along two large railroads for the greater part of American History.
James Hamilton, a Scottish-Irish American veteran of the War of 1812 and first sheriff of Shelby County, settled in Cedar Grove in 1816. John Richard Ingram Pashal Stewart, a Cherokee English teacher and American veteran of the War of 1812, settled at Ohanafeefee Village c.1840. At Oak Ridge in 1820 or 1821, European settlers formed Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first CPC congregation in middle Alabama. By 1887, the original railroad pioneers included free African-American settlers who came to work at the Leeds cement plant and the Central of Georgia as the Georgia Pacific railroads. Some gravitated to historic Mt. Pleasant Church where a handful of freed slaves had founded Scott City, Hillard Holley, Ciscero Davis, Jeff Harris, and Bill Johnson started Leeds Negro/Primary School in 1921.
Become A Paralegal Online Leeds AL
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Become A Paralegal Online. But as we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Leeds residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Leeds AL.
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