How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Jefferson Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Jefferson AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Jefferson homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Jefferson AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Jefferson AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Jefferson AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Jefferson AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick 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 several Jefferson AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Jefferson 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 upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Jefferson AL region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Jefferson AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Jefferson AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Jefferson AL?
If you live near Jefferson 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.
Al Ricardo Jefferson (born January 4, 1985) is an American professional basketball player for the Xinjiang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA). He played high school basketball for Prentiss High School in Mississippi before skipping college to enter the 2004 NBA draft, where he was drafted 15th overall by the Boston Celtics. He has previously played for the Celtics, Minnesota Timberwolves, Utah Jazz, Charlotte Hornets and Indiana Pacers.
Born in Monticello, Mississippi, Jefferson attended Prentiss High School in the small nearby town of Prentiss from 2000 to 2004. After starting for his varsity team as a freshman at Prentiss, he became one of the elite players in the country as a junior, drawing the attention of both college coaches around the country, and the scouts of the NBA. In his senior year for the Bulldogs, he averaged an astounding 42.6 points, 18 rebounds and seven blocks per game as his Bulldogs team went on to lose in the Mississippi state class 3A semi-finals to Byhalia High School 88-73, in which Jefferson finished with 56 points.
Considered a five-star recruit by Rivals.com, Jefferson was listed as the No. 1 center and the No. 4 player in the nation in 2004. He had originally committed to Arkansas, but opted instead to make the jump to the NBA straight out of high school.
Online Paralegal Certificate Program Jefferson AL
Selecting the right paralegal training school is an important 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 Certificate Program. But as we have covered 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 Jefferson residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Jefferson AL.
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