How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Hodges Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hodges AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession 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 most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Hodges residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 basically both fill the same job roles and functions, just 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 lawyers in Hodges AL with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Hodges AL paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since 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 on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 means to start your career in Hodges AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Hodges AL.
Online Paralegal Classes
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good option for students in Hodges AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing Hodges AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Hodges AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Hodges AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Hodges AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Hodges AL local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Hodges AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Hodges AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Hodges AL?
Hodges is located in southern Franklin County at 34°19′49″N 87°55′39″W / 34.33028°N 87.92750°W / 34.33028; -87.92750 (34.330242, -87.927394). The southern border of the town follows the Marion County line. Alabama State Route 172 passes through the town, leading northwest 9 miles (14 km) to Vina and southeast 7 miles (11 km) to Hackleburg. Alabama State Route 187 leads northeast from the center of Hodges 13 miles (21 km) to Belgreen.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.1 square miles (10.7 km2), of which 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.15%, is water. The town sits on the Tennessee Valley Divide, with the east side draining to Bear Creek, a north-flowing tributary of the Tennessee River, and the west side draining via Skirum Branch to Bull Mountain Creek, a west-flowing tributary of the Tombigbee River. 2 miles (3 km) north of Hodges is Rock Bridge Canyon Park, on bluffs overlooking Bear Creek.
As of the census of 2000, there were 261 people, 98 households, and 78 families residing in the town. The population density was 84.2 people per square mile (32.5/km²). There were 118 housing units at an average density of 38.1 per square mile (14.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 100.00% White.
There were 98 households out of which 32.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 62.2% were married couples living together, 14.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 19.4% were non-families. 19.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.66 and the average family size was 3.05.
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Hodges AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Hodges home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hodges AL.
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