How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Livingston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Livingston AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Livingston homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Livingston AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Livingston AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Livingston AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, including 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Livingston AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Livingston AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among 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 remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Livingston AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good 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 sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Livingston AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include 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 check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Livingston AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Livingston AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Livingston AL?
If you live near Livingston 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.
Livingston is a city in Sumter County, Alabama, United States. By an act of the state legislature, it was incorporated on January 10, 1835. At the 2010 census the population was 3,485, up from 3,297 in 2000. The city is the county seat of Sumter County, and the home of the University of West Alabama. It was named in honor of Edward Livingston, of the Livingston family of New York.
As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 3,485 people residing in the city. 63.8% were African American, 34.4% White, 0.1% Native American, 0.3% Asian, <0.1% Pacific Islander and 0.6% of two more races. 0.7% were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,297 people, 1,368 households, and 731 families residing in the city. The population density was 463.1 people per square mile (178.8/km²). There were 1,586 housing units at an average density of 222.8 per square mile (86.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 60.78% Black or African American, 37.82% White or Caucasian, 0.18% Asian, 0.15% Native American, 0.30% from other races, and 0.76% from two or more races. 1.43% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Paralegal Bachelor Degree Online Livingston AL
Selecting the right paralegal training 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 Paralegal Bachelor Degree Online. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Livingston residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Livingston AL.
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