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How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Oxford Alabama

Oxford Alabama female paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Oxford AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Oxford residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Oxford Alabama law library

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Oxford AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can involve:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Researching applicable cases and laws
  • Composing correspondence and legal documents
  • Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very 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 clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Oxford Alabama male legal assistant speaking on cellphone writing notes

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 way to start your career as a paralegal in Oxford AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 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 two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get 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 establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 paralegal degree or certificate 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 guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses

Oxford Alabama female student attending paralegal online classesOnline legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Oxford 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 ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Colleges

Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Oxford AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal School 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 might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Oxford AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need 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 services, 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 Oxford AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Oxford AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Oxford AL region.

What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Oxford AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend 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 select offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Oxford Online Paralegal Certificate and Degree Programs

Choose the Best Oxford Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Selecting the best legal assistant training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 privacy and comfort of your Oxford residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Oxford Alabama.


 

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