How to Find a Paralegal School near Jacksonville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Jacksonville AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Jacksonville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Jacksonville AL with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Jacksonville AL paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Jacksonville AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Jacksonville AL.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those in Jacksonville AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Jacksonville AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about 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 properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Jacksonville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Jacksonville AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Jacksonville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within your Jacksonville AL local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Jacksonville AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Jacksonville AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Jacksonville AL?
Jacksonville is a city in Calhoun County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census the population was 12,548, which is a 49% increase since 2000. It is included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area. Jacksonville State University is located here, which is a center of commerce and one of the largest employers in the area.
Jacksonville was founded in 1833 on land purchased from Creek Indian Chief "Du-Hoag" Ladiga. First called Drayton, the town was renamed to honor President Andrew Jackson in 1834. There are a couple Civil War monuments in town, including a statue of Major John Pelham in the city cemetery and a statue of a Confederate soldier in the middle of the square. Jacksonville served as the county seat for Calhoun County until the 20th century when it moved to Anniston. Jacksonville State University was founded here in 1883.
An EF3 tornado hit Jacksonville on March 19, 2018, causing extensive damage to the city and Jacksonville State University, almost $42 million in damages. The relatively low amount of casualties, specifically just four injuries, was attributed by some to the fact that the university was on spring break at the time. More than 1,000 volunteers assisted in the immediate tornado relief. Caleb Howard, then a senior at Jacksonville State University, said that "[i]t's been amazing to see the university and the community come together." Classes resumed at the university the following month. Although the university's usual site for graduation, Pete Mathews Coliseum, was damaged in the tornado along with over 20 other buildings, the first spring graduation since the tornado proceeded as scheduled on May 4 outside the football stadium. Dr. John Beeler, the university's president, said "It's a joyous event generally because you're celebrating the accomplishments of all your graduates, but it's an even more joyous event because to me it's a celebration of how far we've come in a short time in recovering from these tornadoes."
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.8 square miles (25.5 km2), of which 0.008 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.10%, is water. Jacksonville is located in a valley between Choccolocco Mountain to the east and smaller ridges to the west.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Jacksonville AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Jacksonville residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Jacksonville AL.
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