How to Choose a Paralegal College near Athens Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Athens AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Athens homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective 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 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 fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Athens AL with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties 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 practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Athens AL paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Athens AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired 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. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Athens AL.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals in Athens AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain 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 dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing Athens AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School 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 may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Athens AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Athens AL paralegal schools 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 education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Athens AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Athens AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Athens AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Athens AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Athens AL?
Athens is a city in Limestone County, in the State of Alabama. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 21,897. The city is the county seat of Limestone County and is included in the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area.
Founded in 1818 by John Coffee, Robert Beaty, John D. Carroll, and John Read, Athens is one of the oldest incorporated cities in the State of Alabama, having been incorporated one year prior to the state's admittance to the Union in 1819. Limestone County was also created by an act of the Alabama Territorial Legislature in 1818. The town was first called Athenson, but was incorporated as Athens after the ancient city in Greece. The town's first mayor was Samuel Tanner, and the Tanner area, south of Athens, was named on his behalf.
The Athens area was the home of William Wyatt Bibb, the first Governor of Alabama, and its second Governor, his brother Thomas Bibb, who succeeded him in office when he died in a fall from his horse.
In 1822, local residents purchased 5 acres (20,000 m2) of land and constructed a building to house the Athens Female Academy. The school became affiliated with the Methodist church in 1842, and was eventually renamed Athens Female College. After becoming coeducational in 1932, the school changed its name again to Athens College. After being taken over by the State of Alabama in 1974, the college was converted to a “reverse junior college,” offering the last two years of instruction for graduates of area community colleges. It is today known as Athens State University.
Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Athens AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational 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 option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Athens residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Athens AL.
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