How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Dothan Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Dothan AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Dothan residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. 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 examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly 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 for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Dothan AL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Dothan AL paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized 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 duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Dothan AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Dothan AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students in Dothan AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance 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 might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Dothan AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Dothan AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Dothan AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Dothan AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within your Dothan AL local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Dothan AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Dothan AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Dothan AL?
Dothan /ˈdoʊθən/ is a city in Dale, Henry, and Houston counties in the U.S. state of Alabama. It is the largest city and county seat of Houston County, with a population of 65,496 at the 2010 census. It is located in the state's southeastern corner, approximately 20 miles (32 km) west of the Georgia state line and 16 miles (26 km) north of Florida. It is named after the biblical city, which is the place where Joseph's brothers threw him into a cistern and then sold him into slavery in Egypt.
Dothan is the principal city of the Dothan, Alabama metropolitan area, which encompasses all of Geneva, Henry, and Houston counties; the small portion that lies in Dale County is part of the Ozark Micropolitan Statistical Area. The combined population for the entire Dothan metropolitan area in 2010 was 145,639. The city serves as the main transportation and commercial hub for a significant part of southeastern Alabama, southwest Georgia, and nearby portions of the Florida Panhandle. Since approximately one-fourth of the U.S. peanut crop is produced nearby, with much of it being processed in the city, Dothan is sometimes referred to as "The Peanut Capital of the World". Dothan also hosts the annual National Peanut Festival at the dedicated "Peanut Festival Fairgrounds".
The area that is now Dothan was inhabited for thousands of years by successive cultures of indigenous peoples. In historic times it was occupied by the Alabama and Creek Native American tribes who were hunters and gatherers in the vast forests of pine that covered this region. These tribes had developed complex cultures, and often used to meet and camp for trading near a large spring at the crossroads of two trails.
Between 1763 and 1783, the region that is now Dothan was part of the colony of British West Florida. European-American settlers moving through the area during the late 18th and early 19th centuries discovered the Indian spring, naming it "Poplar Head". Most felt that the sandy soil common to this region would be unsuitable for farming, so they moved on.
Select the Best Paralegal College near Dothan AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding 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 comfort and privacy of your Dothan residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Dothan AL.
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