How to Pick the Right Legal Assistant Program near Theodore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Theodore AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Theodore residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Theodore AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Theodore AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Theodore AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Theodore AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 call some Theodore AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, 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 practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Theodore AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Theodore AL region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Theodore AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Theodore AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced 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 caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Theodore AL?
If you live near Theodore 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.
Theodore is a census-designated place (CDP) in Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The population was 6,130 at the 2010 census. It is a part of the Mobile metropolitan statistical area. Prior to 1900 this area was known as Clements, but is now named for William Theodore Hieronymous (a sawmill operator and postmaster).
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,811 people, 2,483 households, and 1,926 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 571.6 people per square mile (220.6/km²). There were 2,697 housing units at an average density of 226.3 per square mile (87.4/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 71.11% White, 25.58% Black or African American, 0.62% Native American, 1.29% Asian, 0.41% from other races, and 1.00% from two or more races. 1.38% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,483 households out of which 38.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.6% were married couples living together, 19.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.4% were non-families. 19.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.1% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.73 and the average family size was 3.11.
Paralegal Degree Program Theodore AL
Choosing the right paralegal studies training school is an essential 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 Paralegal Degree Program. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Theodore residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Theodore AL.
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