How to Select the Right Paralegal Training Program near Decatur Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Decatur AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Decatur residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 Decatur AL lawyers with a wide range 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Decatur AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Decatur AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Decatur AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Decatur AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Decatur AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Decatur AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Decatur AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Decatur AL, verify 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. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary 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 cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Decatur AL?
If you live near Decatur 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.
Decatur is a city in Morgan and Limestone counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. The city, nicknamed "The River City", is located in Northern Alabama on the banks of Wheeler Lake, along the Tennessee River. It is the largest city and county seat of Morgan County. The population in 2010 was 55,683.
Decatur is also the core city of the two-county large Decatur, Alabama metropolitan area which had an estimated population of 153,374 in 2013. Combined with the Huntsville Metropolitan Area, the two create the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area, of which Decatur is the second-largest city.
Like many southern cities in the early 19th century, Decatur's early success was based upon its location along a river. Railroad routes and boating traffic pushed the city to the front of North Alabama's economic atmosphere. The city rapidly grew into a large economic center within the Tennessee Valley and was a hub for travelers and cargo between Nashville and Mobile, as well as Chattanooga and New Orleans. Throughout the 20th century, the city experienced steady growth, but was eclipsed as the regional economic center by the fast-growing Huntsville during the space race. The city now finds its economy heavily based on manufacturing, mining, cargo transit, chemical, and high-tech companies such as Vulcan Materials,Daikin,Toray, and United Launch Alliance.
Legal Studies Major Decatur AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an important 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 Legal Studies Major. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Decatur home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Decatur AL.
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