How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program near Dothan Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Dothan AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal 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 increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Dothan residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Dothan AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand 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 volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Dothan AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of 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. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Dothan AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Dothan AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Dothan AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could 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 establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Dothan AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Dothan AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Dothan AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Dothan AL, make sure 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 offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure 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 study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Dothan AL?
If you live near Dothan 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.
Dothan /ˈdoʊθən/ is a city in Dale, Henry, and Houston counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. It is the largest city and county seat of Houston County, with a population of 65,496 at the 2010 census. It is in the state's southeastern corner, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of the Georgia state line and 16 miles (26 km) north of Florida. It is named after the biblical city, the place where Joseph's brothers threw him into a cistern and sold him into slavery in Egypt.
Dothan is the principal city of the Dothan, Alabama metropolitan area, which encompasses all of Geneva, Henry, and Houston counties; the small portion in Dale County is part of the Ozark Micropolitan Statistical Area. The combined population of the entire Dothan metropolitan area in 2010 was 145,639. The city serves as the main transportation and commercial hub for a significant part of southeastern Alabama, southwest Georgia, and nearby portions of the Florida Panhandle. Since approximately one-fourth of the U.S. peanut crop is produced nearby, much of it processed in the city, Dothan is sometimes called "The Peanut Capital of the World". It also hosts the annual National Peanut Festival at the dedicated "Peanut Festival Fairgrounds".
The area that is now Dothan was inhabited for thousands of years by successive cultures of indigenous peoples. In historic times it was occupied by the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes who were hunters and gatherers in the vast forests of pine that covered this region. These tribes had developed complex cultures, and often used to meet and camp for trading near a large spring at the crossroads of two trails.
Online Paralegal Courses Dothan AL
Choosing the right paralegal studies training program is a vital 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 Online Paralegal Courses. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Dothan residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, 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 pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Dothan AL.
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