How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Huntsville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Huntsville AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Huntsville homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Huntsville AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Huntsville AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Huntsville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 discussed, there are other important issues to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Huntsville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Huntsville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Huntsville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Huntsville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? 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 cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Huntsville AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Huntsville 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 choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance 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 might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Huntsville AL?
If you live near Huntsville 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.
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County and south into Morgan County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 census. Huntsville is the third-largest city in Alabama and the largest city in the five-county Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area, which at the 2013 census estimate had a total population of 683,871. The Huntsville Metropolitan Area's population was 417,593 in 2010 to become the 2nd largest in Alabama. Huntsville metro's population reached 441,000 by 2014.
It grew across nearby hills north of the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command nearby at the Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list.
The first settlers of the area were Muscogee-speaking people. The Chickasaw traditionally claim to have settled around 1300 after coming east across the Mississippi. A combination of factors, including depopulation due to disease, land disputes between the Choctaw and Cherokee, and pressures from the United States government had largely depopulated the area prior to 1805. That year Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt settled in the land around the Big Spring. The 1805 Treaty with the Chickasaws and the Cherokee Treaty of Washington of 1806 ceded native claims to the United States Government. The area was subsequently purchased by LeRoy Pope, who named the area Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope.
ABA Paralegal Certificate Huntsville AL
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate school is an important 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 ABA Paralegal Certificate. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Huntsville residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Huntsville AL.
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