How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Scottsboro Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Scottsboro AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Scottsboro residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this post 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 selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices 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 fill comparable job roles 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 help lawyers in Scottsboro AL with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. 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 attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Scottsboro AL paralegal can be involved and very challenging. 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 action. 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Scottsboro AL as a paralegal is by earning 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 extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Scottsboro AL.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those in Scottsboro AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Scottsboro AL area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Scottsboro AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Scottsboro AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Scottsboro AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Scottsboro AL local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Scottsboro AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Scottsboro AL, verify 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, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Scottsboro AL?
Scottsboro is a city in Jackson County, Alabama, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 14,770. Named for its founder Robert Scott, the city is the county seat of Jackson County.
From its incorporation in 1870 until 1890, it was the largest community in Jackson County, losing the distinction from 1900 to 1920 to Bridgeport, but reclaiming the title in 1930 and holding it since that time.
It is located 30 miles each from the state boundaries of Georgia to the east (Dade County) and Tennessee to the north, about 45 miles from Huntsville, Alabama to the west and about 55 miles from Chattanooga, Tennessee to the northeast.
Prior to Scottsboro's founding, the area surrounding the present-day city was inhabited by the Cherokee Indians. While the Tennessee Valley did not have large Native American settlements at the time of the first white settlers, there was a Cherokee town named "Crow Town" near where Scottsboro is located today.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Scottsboro AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Scottsboro residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that 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 irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Scottsboro AL.
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