How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Course Near Fairhope Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fairhope AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get 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 educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Fairhope residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fairhope AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Fairhope AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Fairhope AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain 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 attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Fairhope AL area, in addition to trade and vocational 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 degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fairhope AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Fairhope AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Fairhope AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly 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 attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Fairhope AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Fairhope AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fairhope AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Fairhope Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fairhope home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program 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 schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fairhope Alabama.