How to Pick a Paralegal School near Huntsville Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Huntsville AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Huntsville homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alabama Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Huntsville AL lawyers 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 based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional 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 allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for Huntsville AL attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many Huntsville AL area community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited Huntsville AL area program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular in Huntsville AL and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school 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 supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at Huntsville AL area junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 also. A number of Huntsville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Alabama legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since Huntsville AL employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming 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 verify 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 graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other Huntsville AL legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Huntsville AL legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local Huntsville AL legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. 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 need to initially consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length 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 as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Huntsville AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Huntsville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Find the Ideal Paralegal Training near Huntsville AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Huntsville home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Huntsville AL.
More About Huntsville Alabama
Huntsville is a city located primarily in Madison County in the Appalachian region of northern Alabama. Huntsville is the county seat of Madison County. The city extends west into neighboring Limestone County and south into Morgan County. Huntsville's population was 180,105 as of the 2010 census. Huntsville is the third-largest city in Alabama and the largest city in the five-county Huntsville-Decatur-Albertville, AL Combined Statistical Area, which at the 2013 census estimate had a total population of 683,871. The Huntsville Metropolitan Area's population was 417,593 in 2010 to become the 2nd largest in Alabama. Huntsville metro's population reached 441,000 by 2014.
It grew across nearby hills north of the Tennessee River, adding textile mills, then munitions factories, NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and the United States Army Aviation and Missile Command nearby at the Redstone Arsenal. The National Trust for Historic Preservation named Huntsville to its "America's Dozen Distinctive Destinations for 2010" list.
The first settlers of the area were Muscogee-speaking people. The Chickasaw traditionally claim to have settled around 1300 after coming east across the Mississippi. A combination of factors, including depopulation due to disease, land disputes between the Choctaw and Cherokee, and pressures from the United States government had largely depopulated the area prior to 1805. That year Revolutionary War veteran John Hunt settled in the land around the Big Spring. The 1805 Treaty with the Chickasaws and the Cherokee Treaty of Washington of 1806 ceded native claims to the United States Government. The area was subsequently purchased by LeRoy Pope, who named the area Twickenham after the home village of his distant kinsman Alexander Pope.
Twickenham was carefully planned, with streets laid out on the northeast to southwest direction based on the flow of Big Spring. However, due to anti-British sentiment during this period, the name was changed to "Huntsville" to honor John Hunt, who had been forced to move to other land south of the new city.
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