How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Foley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Foley AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Foley residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Foley AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Foley AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Foley AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Foley AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Foley AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 call several Foley AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not 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 firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Foley AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Foley AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Foley AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Foley AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Foley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal training school is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 Foley home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire 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 selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Foley Alabama.