How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Northport Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Northport AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Northport homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Northport AL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Northport AL paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Northport AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though 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 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Northport AL.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those in Northport AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Northport AL area schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially 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 looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Northport AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Northport AL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Northport AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. 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 Northport AL local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Northport AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Northport AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Northport AL?
Northport is a city in Tuscaloosa County in the west central part of the State of Alabama. Located on the Black Warrior River across from downtown Tuscaloosa, it is currently the 21st largest city in Alabama with an estimated population of 24,497 in 2013. It incorporated in 1871. It is part of the Tuscaloosa Metropolitan Statistical Area.
As Northport is adjacent to the larger city of Tuscaloosa, many residents work in Tuscaloosa or other parts of Tuscaloosa County. Although the two cities share a land boundary, much of their boundary (and historically all of the boundary) is the Black Warrior River.
As of the census of 2000, there were 19,435 people, 7,844 households, and 5,255 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,328.3 people per square mile (512.9/km²). There were 8,509 housing units at an average density of 581.6 per square mile (224.6/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 71.11% White, 26.03% Black or African American, 0.19% Native American, 0.80% Asian, 0.15% Pacific Islander, 1.02% from other races, and 0.70% from two or more races. 1.92% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 7,844 households out of which 32.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% were married couples living together, 15.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.0% were non-families. 28.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.7% 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 2.98.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal School near Northport AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Northport home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training 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 Northport AL.
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