How to Select the Best Paralegal Course Near Fultondale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fultondale AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get 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 a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Fultondale residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fultondale AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Fultondale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Fultondale AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fultondale AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fultondale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Fultondale AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fultondale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? 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. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want 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 want to initially consider those schools that are within the Fultondale AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Fultondale AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Fultondale AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Fultondale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Fultondale residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fultondale Alabama.