How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Leesburg Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Leesburg AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right 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 increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Leesburg homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Leesburg AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Leesburg AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Leesburg AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include 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 covered, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify 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 as well. Numerous Leesburg 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 offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Leesburg AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Leesburg AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. 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 may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Leesburg AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Leesburg AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Leesburg AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Leesburg AL?
If you live near Leesburg 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.
Leesburg was originally called Hamptonville; it was named for Joseph Hampton and the Henslee family respectively. A post office was established as Hamptonville in 1836, and in 1839 the name was changed to Leesburg.
Leesburg is located in western Cherokee County at 34°10'57.446" North, 85°46'8.350" West (34.182624, -85.768986). It is bordered by Lookout Mountain and the town of Sand Rock to the north and Weiss Lake on the Coosa River to the south. Weiss Dam, forming the lake, is located just south of the town limits.
As of the census of 2010, there were 1,027 people, 409 households, and 298 families residing in the town. The population density was 160 people per square mile (61.8/km²). There were 663 housing units at an average density of 103.6 per square mile (39.8/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 96.5% White, 0.0% Native American, 0.0% Asian, 0.5% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. 1.3% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Accredited Paralegal Degree Online Leesburg AL
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Accredited Paralegal Degree Online. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Leesburg home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Leesburg AL.
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