How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant School near Anniston Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Anniston AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Anniston homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Anniston AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated 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 proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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 have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Anniston AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Anniston AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to consider 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 considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Anniston AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Anniston AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Anniston AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing 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 good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Anniston AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Anniston AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Anniston AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Anniston AL?
If you live near Anniston 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.
Anniston is the county seat of Calhoun County in Alabama and is one of two urban centers/principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 23,106. According to 2013 Census estimates, the city had a population of 22,666.
Though the surrounding area was settled much earlier, the mineral resources in the area of Anniston were not exploited until the Civil War. The Confederate States of America then operated an iron furnace near present-day downtown Anniston, until it was finally destroyed by raiding Union cavalry in early 1865. Later, cast iron for sewer systems became the focus of Anniston's industrial output. Cast iron pipe, also called soil pipe, was popular until the advent of plastic pipe in the 1960s.
In 1872, the Woodstock Iron Company, organized by Samuel Noble and Union Gen. Daniel Tyler, rebuilt the furnace on a much larger scale, and started a planned community named Woodstock, soon renamed "Annie's Town" for Annie Scott Tyler, Daniel's daughter and wife of railroad president Alfred L. Tyler. Anniston was chartered as a town in 1873.
Paralegal Classes Anniston AL
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate program is an important first step to guarantee 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 Classes. But as we have covered 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 Anniston home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Anniston AL.
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