How to Find the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Clanton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Clanton AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. 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 options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Clanton residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on 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 prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Clanton AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Clanton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Clanton AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, such as 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 researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Clanton AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Clanton AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Clanton AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Clanton AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Clanton AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Clanton AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Clanton AL?
If you live near Clanton 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.
Clanton is a city in Chilton County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Birmingham–Hoover–Cullman Combined Statistical Area. At the 2010 census the population was 8,619. The city is the county seat of Chilton County. Clanton is near the site of the geographic center of the U.S state of Alabama.
The town was founded by Alfred Baker in 1868, when Chilton County was formed. Prior to establishment in 1868, the Town of Clanton was known as the community of "Goose Pond". Baker County was renamed to Chilton County and the community of "Goose Pond" became the Town of Clanton. Clanton was named in honor of General James H. Clanton, a brigadier in the Confederate States Army, and was incorporated on April 23, 1873. Baker was also elected first mayor of the town.
Nearby Lay Lake Dam and Mitchell Dam became Alabama Power's first two dams in the state, bringing economic improvements to the area. Immigrants played a part in starting the county's peach industry more than a century ago. Today, the peach industry is the number one industry in Chilton County, not only bringing fame to the county, but also millions of dollars to the local economy. The city of Clanton constructed a water tower in the form of a peach in 1993, becoming a landmark for travelers along Interstate 65.
How To Be A Paralegal Clanton AL
Choosing the right paralegal training program is a crucial 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 How To Be A Paralegal. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Clanton residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Clanton AL.
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