How to Select a Paralegal Program near Cottonwood Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cottonwood AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Cottonwood residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Cottonwood AL with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Cottonwood AL paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 start your career in Cottonwood AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Cottonwood AL.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students in Cottonwood AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Cottonwood AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify 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 Cottonwood AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Cottonwood AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good 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 contact several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Cottonwood AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. 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 may need to initially look at those colleges that are within your Cottonwood AL local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Cottonwood AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Cottonwood AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Cottonwood AL?
Cottonwood is a town in Houston County, Alabama, United States. One source said the town incorporated in 1901, although the 1910 U.S. Census stated 1903. It is part of the Dothan, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. At the 2010 census the population was 1,289, up from 1,170 in 2000.
Cottonwood is located in southern Houston County at 31°3′13″N 85°18′9″W / 31.05361°N 85.30250°W / 31.05361; -85.30250 (31.053646, -85.302409).Alabama State Route 53 passes through the center of town, leading north 14 miles (23 km) to Dothan and southeast 7 miles (11 km) to the Florida state line. Malone, Florida, is 11 miles (18 km) southeast of Cottonwood.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,170 people, 485 households, and 323 families residing in the town. The population density was 212.9 people per square mile (82.1/km2). There were 548 housing units at an average density of 99.7 per square mile (38.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 69.06% White, 29.06% Black or African American, 0.68% Native American, and 1.20% from two or more races. 1.97% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 485 households out of which 29.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.2% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.2% were non-families. 30.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 3.01.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Cottonwood AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Cottonwood home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain 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 ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Cottonwood AL.
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