How to Choose the Right Paralegal School near Jacksonville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Jacksonville AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Jacksonville homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, 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.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Jacksonville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Jacksonville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Jacksonville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may 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 receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Jacksonville AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 a few Jacksonville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which 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 Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Jacksonville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Jacksonville AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Jacksonville AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Jacksonville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those 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 secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. 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 structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Jacksonville AL?
If you live near Jacksonville 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.
Jacksonville is a city in Calhoun County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 12,548, which is a 49% increase since 2000. It is included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. Jacksonville State University is located here, which is a center of commerce and one of the largest employers in the area.
Jacksonville was founded in 1833 on land purchased from Creek Indian Chief "Du-Hoag" Ladiga. First called Drayton, the town was renamed to honor President Andrew Jackson in 1834. There are a couple Civil War monuments in town, including a statue of Major John Pelham in the city cemetery and a statue of a Confederate soldier in the middle of the square. Jacksonville served as the county seat for Calhoun County until the 20th century when it moved to Anniston. Jacksonville State University was founded here in 1883.
An EF3 tornado hit Jacksonville on March 19, 2018, causing extensive damage to the city and Jacksonville State University, almost $42 million in damages. The relatively low number of casualties, specifically just four injuries, was attributed by some to the fact that the university was on spring break at the time. More than 1,000 volunteers assisted in the immediate tornado relief. Caleb Howard, then a senior at Jacksonville State University, said that "[i]t's been amazing to see the university and the community come together." Classes resumed at the university the following month. Although the university's usual site for graduation, Pete Mathews Coliseum, was damaged in the tornado along with over 20 other buildings, the first spring graduation since the tornado proceeded as scheduled on May 4 outside the football stadium. Dr. John Beeler, the university's president, said "It's a joyous event generally because you're celebrating the accomplishments of all your graduates, but it's an even more joyous event because to me it's a celebration of how far we've come in a short time in recovering from these tornadoes."
Legal Assistant Degree Jacksonville AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training school is an important 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 Legal Assistant Degree. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Jacksonville residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Jacksonville AL.
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