How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Ashford Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Ashford AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive 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 increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Ashford residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alabama Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Ashford AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare 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 paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for Ashford AL attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous Ashford AL area community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career 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 certificate or degree from an accredited Ashford AL area school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular in Ashford AL and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at Ashford AL area community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Ashford AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Alabama paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since Ashford AL employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other Ashford AL legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Ashford AL legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring Ashford AL legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Ashford AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Ashford AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Paralegal School near Ashford AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Ashford home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Ashford AL.
More About Ashford Alabama
Ashford is a town in Houston County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Dothan, Alabama Metropolitan Statistical Area. The town was incorporated in June 1891. For most of its history, it was a center for naval stores production, pulpwood harvesting, and cotton agriculture. The population was 2,148 at the 2010 census, up from 1,853 at the 2000 census.
Ashford is located slightly northeast of the center of Houston County at 31°11′3″N 85°14′7″W / 31.18417°N 85.23528°W / 31.18417; -85.23528 (31.184032, -85.235286).U.S. Route 84 passes through the southern part of the town, leading west 9 miles (14 km) to Dothan and southeast 24 miles (39 km) to Donalsonville, Georgia. The Chattahoochee River, which forms the Georgia state line, is 12 miles (19 km) southeast of Ashford on US 84.
Ashford's former mayor is Jonathon Grecu, he resigned from office on December 31, 2017. On January 8, 2018 Carole Barfield took office. As of October 2018, the current mayor is Carole Barfield, and City Council members are Gary Gibson, Ronnie Whitehead, Alan Anderson, James Smith, and Denise Herndon. The recreation director for the City of Ashford is Louis Edmondson. The City Clerk is currently open for employment.
Ashford has one elementary school for grades K-5 and a high school for grades 6-12. The schools mascot is known as the yellow jackets named Buzz. The current principal of Ashford Elementary School is Denise Kohen and the principal of Ashford High School is Bubba Odom. Ashford Academy was once a private school that closed its doors at the end of the 2014-2015 school year.
Related Cities in Alabama