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How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Huntsville Alabama

Huntsville Alabama woman paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Huntsville AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Huntsville residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest 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 like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Huntsville Alabama legal books

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Huntsville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities may include:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
  • Composing correspondence and legal papers
  • Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because 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 otherwise.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Huntsville Alabama male legal assistant speaking on cellphone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Huntsville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 paralegal 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 initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes

Huntsville Alabama female student enrolled in online paralegal classesLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Huntsville AL students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.

Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs

Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Huntsville AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate 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 discussed, there are other important aspects to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Huntsville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.

What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Huntsville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Huntsville AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, 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. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Huntsville AL area.

How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Huntsville AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Huntsville 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 offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Huntsville Paralegal Degree Programs

Enroll in the Best Huntsville Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the right legal assistant degree program is a crucial 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Huntsville residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Huntsville Alabama.


 

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