How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Hodges Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Hodges AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Hodges residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alabama Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Hodges AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. 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 normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for Hodges AL lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 start your career as a legal assistant is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous Hodges AL area community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Hodges AL area program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available in Hodges AL and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at Hodges AL area junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out 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 also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Hodges AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Alabama legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since Hodges AL employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including 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 firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other Hodges AL legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs 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 large networks and good relationships with Hodges AL 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 among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local Hodges AL legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want 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 need to initially investigate those colleges that are within your local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Hodges AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Hodges AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Program near Hodges AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Hodges home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Hodges AL.
More About Hodges Alabama
A community known as "Reid Brake" was established at what is now Hodges in the 1880s. The current town was established in 1907 as a stop along the Illinois Central Railroad and named for a prominent local family. The town incorporated in 1913, and reincorporated in 1919.
Hodges is located in southern Franklin County at 34°19′49″N 87°55′39″W / 34.33028°N 87.92750°W / 34.33028; -87.92750 (34.330242, -87.927394). The southern border of the town follows the Marion County line. Alabama State Route 172 passes through the town, leading northwest 9 miles (14 km) to Vina and southeast 7 miles (11 km) to Hackleburg. Alabama State Route 187 leads northeast from the center of Hodges 13 miles (21 km) to Belgreen.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 4.1 square miles (10.7 km2), of which 0.01 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.15%, is water. The town sits on the Tennessee Valley Divide, with the east side draining to Bear Creek, a north-flowing tributary of the Tennessee River, and the west side draining via Skirum Branch to Bull Mountain Creek, a west-flowing tributary of the Tombigbee River. 2 miles (3 km) north of Hodges is Rock Bridge Canyon Park, on bluffs overlooking Bear Creek.
As of the census of 2000, there were 261 people, 98 households, and 78 families residing in the town. The population density was 84.2 people per square mile (32.5/km²). There were 118 housing units at an average density of 38.1 per square mile (14.7/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 100.00% White.
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