How to Find the Right Legal Assistant School near Oxford Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Oxford AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. 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 at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Oxford residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same 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 legal assistants and paralegals assist Oxford AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather 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 paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Oxford AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Oxford AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Oxford AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools 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 rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Oxford AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Oxford AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Oxford AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Oxford AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Oxford AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Oxford AL?
If you live near Oxford 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.
Oxford is a city in Calhoun and Talladega counties in the State of Alabama. The population was 21,348 at the 2010 census, an increase of 46.3% since the 2000 Census. Oxford is one of two principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Founded in the early 1850s, Oxford was the first city in Calhoun County to be incorporated, in 1852. The name "Oxford" was due to the presence of a narrow crossing of Chocolocco Creek that allowed farmers to ford cattle from one side of the creek to the other. Since 1970, Oxford has annexed large amounts of land to the south and west, including the communities of Coldwater and Bynum. In 1970, it was all in Calhoun County, but today it includes areas in Talladega County.
A smaller municipality, Hobson City, was once a part of Oxford. The area, then known as the Mooree Quarter, is one square mile, and is located north and west of Oxford, and south and west of Anniston. In the last years of the 19th century, according to tradition, in the course of political elections, a black man managed to be elected justice of the peace in Oxford. This being unacceptable to the city fathers, they appealed to the powers in the state capital, and an 'arrangement' was made. The city boundaries were redrawn, in similar fashion to a gerrymander, and the quarter was excluded, becoming a town unto itself. The new town became incorporated on August 16, 1899 as Hobson City, taking the name of a naval hero of the Spanish–American War. The intention was that the largely black population of this quarter would no longer skew the elections of the now almost exclusively white Oxford. Another result was the creation of only the second town in the United States (after Eatonville, Florida) with 100% black government, and an almost 100% black population (at least at first).
Paralegal Class Oxford AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a vital 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 Class. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Oxford residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Oxford AL.
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