How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Leeds Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Leeds AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Leeds homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Leeds AL with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Leeds AL paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Leeds AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Leeds AL.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for students in Leeds AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of evaluating Leeds AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain 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 establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Leeds AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Leeds AL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Leeds AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Leeds AL local region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Leeds AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Leeds AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Leeds AL?
Leeds is a tri-county municipality located in Jefferson, St. Clair, and Shelby counties in the State of Alabama and is an eastern suburb of Birmingham. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 11,773.
The War of 1812, geography, geology, and three cultures shaped the history of Leeds. Lying at the crossroads of desecrated ancient Native-American paths in the center of Alabama, Leeds drew European and African-American settlers to a land of fertile growing seasons and rich sources of coal and mineral ore. The early settlers built churches and schools with many remaining in Cedar Grove, Oak Ridge, Ohanafeefee and Mt. Pleasant. The principal survey of Leeds was entered into Jefferson County Map Book 10, page 21, in 1908. The settlement, dating to 1818 and incorporating on April 27, 1887 as "Leeds", has existed along the banks of the Little Cahaba River; beside an historic stagecoach route; and along two large railroads for the greater part of American History.
James Hamilton, a Scottish-Irish American veteran of the War of 1812 and first sheriff of Shelby County, settled in Cedar Grove in 1816. John Richard Ingram Pashal Stewart, a Cherokee English teacher and American veteran of the War of 1812, settled at Ohanafeefee Village c.1840. At Oak Ridge in 1820 or 1821, European settlers formed Shiloh Cumberland Presbyterian Church, the first CPC congregation in middle Alabama. By 1887, the original railroad pioneers included free African-American settlers who came to work at the Leeds cement plant and the Central of Georgia as the Georgia Pacific railroads. Some gravitated to historic Mt. Pleasant Church where a handful of freed slaves had founded Scott City, Hillard Holley, Ciscero Davis, Jeff Harris, and Bill Johnson started Leeds Negro/Primary School in 1921.
The tale of John Henry was believed to have originated in Leeds. In this folk story, John Henry, the "steel-drivin' man", raced and won against a steam engine in the laying of railroad that penetrated the Oak Mountain Tunnel in Leeds. Retired chemistry professor and folklorist John Garst, of the University of Georgia, has argued that the contest happened at the Coosa Mountain Tunnel or the Oak Mountain Tunnel of the Columbus and Western Railway (now part of Norfolk Southern Railway) in Leeds on September 20, 1887.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Leeds AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Leeds home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Leeds AL.
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