How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Fairhope Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fairhope AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Fairhope homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fairhope AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting 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 very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Fairhope AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fairhope AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Fairhope AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Fairhope AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Fairhope AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Fairhope AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Fairhope AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fairhope AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fairhope AL?
If you live near Fairhope AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Fairhope is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States, on a sloping plateau, along the cliffs and shoreline of Mobile Bay. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 15,326. Fairhope is a principal city of the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area, which includes all of Baldwin County. In 2016, Fairhope was named the best small town in the South by Southern Living magazine.
Fairhope was founded in November 1894 on the site of the former Alabama City as a radical Georgist "Single-Tax" colony by the Fairhope Industrial Association, a group of 28 followers of economist Henry George who had incorporated earlier that year in Des Moines, Iowa. Their corporate constitution explained their purpose in founding a new colony:
In forming their demonstration project, they pooled their funds to purchase land at "Stapleton's pasture" on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and then divided it into a number of long-term leaseholds. The corporation paid all governmental taxes from rents paid by the lessees, thus simulating a single-tax. The purpose of the single-tax colony was to eliminate disincentives for productive use of land and thereby retain the value of land for the community.
Find the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Fairhope AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fairhope residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fairhope AL.
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