How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Hartselle Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hartselle AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Hartselle homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need 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 take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Hartselle AL with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For 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 typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Hartselle AL paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Hartselle AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Hartselle AL.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for individuals in Hartselle AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Hartselle AL area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as 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 many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Hartselle AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Hartselle AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Hartselle AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent 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 in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Hartselle AL local area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost 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 add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Hartselle AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Hartselle AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Hartselle AL?
Hartselle is the second largest city in Morgan County, Alabama, United States, about 10 miles (16 km) south of Decatur, and is included in the Decatur Metropolitan Area, and the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area.
As of the 2010 U.S. Census, the population of the city was 14,255. Hartselle was founded in 1870 with the arrival of the South and North Alabama Railroad. It takes its name from George Hartsell, one of the railroad's owners. The post office opened in 1873. It was formally incorporated on March 1, 1875. Most of the oldest buildings were destroyed by a disastrous fire in 1916.
Hartselle is located at 34°26′25″N 86°56′25″W / 34.44028°N 86.94028°W / 34.44028; -86.94028Coordinates: 34°26′25″N 86°56′25″W / 34.44028°N 86.94028°W / 34.44028; -86.94028 (34.440383, -86.940385).
As of the census of 2000, there were 12,019 people, 4,816 households, and 3,534 families residing in the city. The population density was 809.0 people per square mile (312.3/km²). There were 5,170 housing units at an average density of 348.0 per square mile (134.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 92.25% White, 5.16% Black or African American, 0.63% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.33% from other races, and 1.31% from two or more races. 1.29% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Find the Right Paralegal Training near Hartselle AL
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Hartselle residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Hartselle AL.
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