How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Athens Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Athens AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Athens homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Athens AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Athens AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the profession 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 discuss 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Athens AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Athens 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 obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs 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 caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Athens AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Athens AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Athens AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Athens AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Athens 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 enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Athens AL?
If you live near Athens 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.
Athens is a city in Limestone County, in the State of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 21,897. The city is the county seat of Limestone County and is included in the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area.
Founded in 1818 by John Coffee, Robert Beaty, John D. Carroll, and John Read, Athens is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the State of Alabama, having been incorporated one year prior to the state's admittance to the Union in 1819. Limestone County was also created by an act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818. The town was first called Athenson, but was incorporated as Athens after the ancient city in Greece. The town's first mayor was Samuel Tanner, and the Tanner area, south of Athens, was named on his behalf.
The Athens area was the home of William Wyatt Bibb, the first Governor of Alabama, and its second Governor, his brother Thomas Bibb, who succeeded him in office when he died in a fall from his horse.
Legal Assistant Courses Athens AL
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Legal Assistant Courses. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Athens home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Athens AL.
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