How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School near Opelika Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Opelika AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Opelika homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Opelika AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Opelika AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Opelika AL area, as well as 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 certificate and degree programs also. 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 critical factors to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Opelika AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Opelika AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Opelika AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the Opelika AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Opelika AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Opelika AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater 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 thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Opelika AL?
If you live near Opelika 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.
Opelika (pronounced /ˌoʊpəˈlaɪkə/ OH-pə-LY-kə) is a city in and the county seat of Lee County in the east central part of the State of Alabama. It is a principal city of the Auburn-Opelika Metropolitan Area. According to the 2013 Census Estimate, the population of Opelika was 28,635. The Auburn-Opelika, AL MSA with a population of 150,933 which, along with the Columbus, Georgia metropolitan area and Macon County, Alabama, comprises the Greater Columbus, Georgia, a region home to 501,649 residents.
The first white settlers in the area now known as Opelika arrived in the late 1830s and established a community called Lebanon. After the removal of the native Creek (Muscogee) peoples by federal troops in 1836-37, the area became known as "Opelika." This word taken from the Muskogee language means "large swamp".
In 1848, the Montgomery and West Point Railroad Company extended a rail line from Montgomery, Alabama, to Opelika, and in 1851, completed a connection to West Point, Georgia, thus connecting Opelika with Atlanta, Georgia. This line was the only direct rail route between New Orleans and the Eastern Seaboard. It rapidly became one of the primary trade lines for shipments of raw cotton from Southern plantations to the North. The Montgomery and West Point was soon joined by a rail connection to Columbus, Georgia, in 1855, and a connection to Birmingham, Alabama, in 1869. Almost overnight, Opelika became a regional hub for commerce.
Paralegal Degree How Long Opelika AL
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Degree How Long. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Opelika residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Opelika AL.
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