How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant School near Pinson Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pinson AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Pinson homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Pinson AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Pinson AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Pinson AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential 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 significant aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Pinson AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Pinson AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Pinson AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Pinson AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Pinson AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Pinson AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Pinson AL?
If you live near Pinson 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.
Pinson Valley High School
Pinson Valley High School (PVHS) is a four-year public high school in the Birmingham, Alabama suburb of Pinson. It is the fifth largest of the Jefferson County Board of Education's fourteen high schools. School colors are garnet and gold, and the athletic teams are called the Indians. PVHS competes in AHSAA Class 6A athletics.
Enrollment in grades 9-12 for the 2013-14 school year is 1,028 students. Approximately 51% of students are white, 37% are African-American, 10% are Hispanic, and 2% are Asian-American. Roughly 42% of students qualify for free or reduced price lunch.
PVHS has a graduation rate of 83%. Approximately 75% of its students meet or exceed state proficiency standards in mathematics, and 78% meet or exceed standards in reading. The average ACT score for PVHS students is 22.
Paralegal Associates Degree Online Pinson AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree school is a vital 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 Associates Degree Online. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Pinson home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive 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 ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Pinson AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
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