How to Find a Paralegal School near Clayton Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Clayton AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within driving range of their Clayton residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Clayton AL with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Clayton AL paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Clayton AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Clayton AL.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students in Clayton AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Clayton AL area schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Clayton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Clayton AL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 call several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Clayton AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within your Clayton AL local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Clayton AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Clayton AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Clayton AL?
Clayton has been the county seat since 1834, two years after the creation of Barbour County. Clayton is located geographically in the center of the county. The town was located at the headwaters of the Pea and Choctawhatchee rivers on the historic road from Hobdy's Bridge over the Pea River to Eufaula on the Chattahoochee River. By 1818, there were a few settlers in the area around Clayton, but settlement began in earnest around 1823. The town was named for Augustine S. Clayton, a Georgia jurist and congressman. Clayton became the county seat of Barbour County in 1833 and was laid out on a central courthouse square plan. The first Circuit Court was held in Clayton on September 23, 1833. The Clayton post office was established in September 1835 with John F. Keener as postmaster. Clayton, with a population of 200, was incorporated on December 21, 1841, by the Alabama Legislature. Its first mayor, after incorporation, was John Jackson.
Clayton has a rich heritage with four properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Clayton is also known for its Whiskey Bottle Tombstone, which was featured in Ripley's Believe It or Not!.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Clayton has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps. 
As of the census of 2010, there were 3,008 people, 552 households, and 349 families residing in the town. The population density was 450 inhabitants per square mile (170/km2). There were 649 housing units at an average density of 96.8 per square mile (37.4/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 63.8% Black or African American, 35.8% White, 0.0% Native American, 0.0% from other races, and 0.3% from two or more races. .6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Choose the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Clayton AL
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Clayton home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Clayton AL.
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