How to Select a Paralegal Program near Ashford Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ashford AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Ashford homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate 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 educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part 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 belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Ashford AL with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Ashford AL paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Ashford AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Ashford AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more common and can be a good option for students in Ashford AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Ashford AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, 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 when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 already covered, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Ashford AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Ashford AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Ashford AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 may want to first consider those schools that are within your Ashford AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Ashford AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Ashford AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Ashford AL?
Ashford is a town in Houston County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Dothan, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town was incorporated in June 1891. For most of its history, it was a center for naval stores production, pulpwood harvesting, and cotton agriculture. The population was 2,148 at the 2010 census, up from 1,853 at the 2000 census.
Ashford is located slightly northeast of the center of Houston County at 31°11′3″N 85°14′7″W / 31.18417°N 85.23528°W / 31.18417; -85.23528 (31.184032, -85.235286).U.S. Route 84 passes through the southern part of the town, leading west 9 miles (14 km) to Dothan and southeast 24 miles (39 km) to Donalsonville, Georgia. The Chattahoochee River, which forms the Georgia state line, is 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Ashford on US 84.
Ashford's former mayor is Jonathon Grecu, he resigned from office on December 31, 2017. On January 8, 2018 Carole Barfield took office. As of October 2018, the current mayor is Carole Barfield, and City Council members are Gary Gibson, Ronnie Whitehead, Alan Anderson, James Smith, and Denise Herndon. The recreation director for the City of Ashford is Louis Edmondson. The City Clerk is currently open for employment.
Ashford has one elementary school for grades K-5 and a high school for grades 6-12. The schools mascot is known as the yellow jackets named Buzz. The current principal of Ashford Elementary School is Denise Kohen https://www.hcboe.us/Domain/8 and the principal of Ashford High School is Bubba Odom https://www.hcboe.us/Domain/9. Ashford Academy was once a private school that closed its doors at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Program near Ashford AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Ashford home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Ashford AL.
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Area of study: Certificate in Paralegal Studies. Ideal for: Professionals interested in working with attorneys in all areas of civil and criminal law as a paralegal and who wish to meet the educational requirements dictated by California Law. Current paralegals who seek to differentiate themselves with an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies Certificate.