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How to Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Foley Alabama

Foley Alabama woman paralegal consulting with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Foley AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Foley homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Foley Alabama legal books

Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Foley AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can include:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Researching pertinent laws and cases
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping lawyers prepare 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 complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, 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 confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Foley Alabama male paralegal 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 means to begin your career as a paralegal in Foley AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees

Foley Alabama female student attending online paralegal trainingParalegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Foley AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Schools

Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Foley AL area, 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 as well. 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 previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Foley AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.

What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Foley AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Foley AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Foley AL region.

What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Foley AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Foley AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Foley Paralegal Certificate and Degree Programs

Enroll in the Best Foley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Choosing the right paralegal training school is a vital first step to guarantee 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 Foley residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Foley Alabama.


 

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