How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Ashland Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ashland AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of 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 alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Ashland residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly 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 essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Ashland AL with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Ashland AL paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 start your career in Ashland AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Ashland AL.
Online Paralegal Training
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students in Ashland AL searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Ashland AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Ashland AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Ashland AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Ashland AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within your Ashland AL local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Ashland AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Ashland AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Ashland AL?
Clay County was formed by an act of the Alabama General Assembly on December 7, 1866. Less than a year later, Ashland was established as the county seat on land donated by Hollingsworth Watts for the construction of a courthouse. Ashland was incorporated in 1871 and was named for 19th century statesman Henry Clay's Kentucky estate home.
During the early years, the town grew very rapidly. The town continued to grow with the opening of Alabama's first graphite mine in 1899. When World War I ended, the market for graphite dropped drastically, thus ending the town's growth phase.
The 1930s brought the Great Depression and boll weevil to Ashland that destroyed the cotton industry. Farmers were forced to abandon what had been the community's major industry. Timber, poultry, and cabinet making became the dominant industries by the beginning of the 21st century.
One of the newest attractions in Clay County in the 1920s, was the chicken business. Millions of chickens and eggs and long chicken houses In or about 1921, Reverend Secelar Claxton Ray took one hundred, day-old chicks to the Clay County Fair and put them under an oil burning brooder and called attention to the advantage of using chickens on the farm to supplement the 'all cotton' cash crop. This was something new, but it did gradually get the attention of the local farmers. He was now fully in the poultry business, and named it Goodwill Poultry Farm and Hatchery. He bought houses then idle at the local graphite mines in Clay County and hired neighbors in their spare time and built the hatchery and chicken houses and an extra tenant house on the farm, southeast of Ashland, Alabama whose population of close to one thousand had grown considerably from two hundred in 1881.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal College near Ashland AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Ashland residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Ashland AL.
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