How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Oxford Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Oxford AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Oxford residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Oxford AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Oxford AL paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Oxford AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Oxford AL.
Online Paralegal Classes
Paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students in Oxford AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Oxford AL area schools. But because 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 particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive 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 quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Oxford AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Oxford AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Oxford AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Oxford AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Oxford AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Oxford AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Oxford AL?
Oxford is a city in Calhoun and Talladega counties in the State of Alabama. The population was 21,348 at the 2010 census, an increase of 46.3% since the 2000 Census. Oxford is one of two principal cities of and included in the Anniston-Oxford Metropolitan Statistical Area.
Founded in the early 1850s, Oxford was the first city in Calhoun County to be incorporated, in 1852. The name "Oxford" was due to the presence of a narrow crossing of Chocolocco Creek that allowed farmers to ford cattle from one side of the creek to the other. Since 1970, Oxford has annexed large amounts of land to the south and west, including the communities of Coldwater and Bynum. In 1970, it was all in Calhoun County, but today it includes areas in Talladega County.
A smaller municipality, Hobson City, was once a part of Oxford. The area, then known as the Mooree Quarter, is one square mile, and is located north and west of Oxford, and south and west of Anniston. In the last years of the 19th century, according to tradition, in the course of political elections, a black man managed to be elected justice of the peace in Oxford. This being unacceptable to the city fathers, they appealed to the powers in the state capital, and an 'arrangement' was made. The city boundaries were redrawn, in similar fashion to a gerrymander, and the quarter was excluded, becoming a town unto itself. The new town became incorporated on August 16, 1899 as Hobson City, taking the name of a naval hero of the Spanish–American War. The intention was that the largely black population of this quarter would no longer skew the elections of the now almost exclusively white Oxford. Another result was the creation of only the second town in the United States (after Eatonville, Florida) with 100% black government, and an almost 100% black population (at least at first).
Oxford lies among the foothills at the southern end of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Nearby Cheaha Mountain is Alabama's highest point and offers expansive views of the surrounding wilderness and the city below. Much of the city's southern border is shared with the Talladega National Forest.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Training near Oxford AL
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Oxford home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Oxford AL.
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