How to Select the Right Legal Assistant School near Cottondale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cottondale AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Cottondale residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options 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. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Cottondale AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files 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 conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Cottondale AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Cottondale AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Cottondale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Cottondale AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Cottondale AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large 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’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Cottondale AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained 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 supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Cottondale AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Cottondale AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs 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 particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Cottondale AL?
If you live near Cottondale 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.
Richard Price Rummonds
Richard Price Rummonds (also known as Richard-Gabriel Price Rummonds), one of the foremost handpress printers of the late twentieth century, is also an author, publisher, typographer, and historian of printing. His two books on nineteenth-century printing, Printing on the Iron Handpress and Nineteenth-Century Printing Practices and the Iron Handpress, comprehensively describe the history, operation and merits of the iron handpress.
Born on April 26, 1931, in Long Beach, California, Rummonds was raised in Sacramento, California. He attended Syracuse University in 1949–1950, in the School of Fine Arts, with the intention of majoring in set and costume design and the University of California at Berkeley intermittently between 1950 and 1954, where he majored in English and Creative Writing. During this period he was on the staff of Occident, the student literary magazine, of which he became the editor for the Spring 1954 issue.
Rummonds began printing in Quito, Ecuador in 1966, using the Plain Wrapper Press imprint. His first book was a selection of his own poems. The following year in Buenos Aires, Argentina, he printed a book of his short stories.
Accredited Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Cottondale AL
Choosing the ideal legal assistant training program is an important 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 Accredited Online Paralegal Certificate Programs. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Cottondale home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Cottondale AL.
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