How to Find the Best Paralegal School Near Foley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Foley AL and start 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 comprehensive 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 a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Foley residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Foley AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Foley AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Foley AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary 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 more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Foley AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Foley AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Foley AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Foley AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Foley AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, 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 as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Foley AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Foley AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Foley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Foley home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Foley Alabama.