How to Select a Paralegal Program near Fruitdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fruitdale AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Fruitdale residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective 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 academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fruitdale AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may 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 attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable 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, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Fruitdale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Fruitdale AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include 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 already covered, there are other crucial factors to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Fruitdale AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out 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 caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Fruitdale AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Fruitdale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Fruitdale AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Fruitdale AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Fruitdale AL, make sure 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. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fruitdale AL?
If you live near Fruitdale 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.
U.S. Route 45 in Alabama
In the U.S. state of Alabama, U.S. Route 45 (US 45) is a 60-mile-long (97 km) north–south United States Highway in the east south central state of Alabama. It travels from Mobile to the Mississippi state line, just east of State Line, Mississippi. The highway's southern terminus is in Mobile, at an intersection with US 98. Its northern terminus in the state of Alabama is at the Mississippi state line, where the highway continues to the northwest into that state.
In Alabama, all of the U.S. Highways have one or more unsigned state highways designated along its length. US 45 travels concurrently with State Route 17 (SR 17) from its southern terminus to just north of Deer Park. For the rest of its length in the state, the highway travels concurrently with SR 57.
US 45, along with unsigned SR 17, begins at an intersection with US 98 (Spring Hill Avenue; unsigned SR 42) in the central part of Mobile, in Mobile County. US 45 heads to the northwest and travels just north of Lyons Park and skirts along the northeastern edge of USA Children's & Women's Hospital. It crosses over Threemile Creek and curves to the north-northwest. It passes just to the east of Washington Middle School and Carver Park. Just after passing Gorgas Park and LeFlore Magnet High School, the highway curves back to the northwest. At an intersection with West Prichard Avenue, it leaves Mobile and enters Prichard. It crosses over some railroad tracks of Canadian National Railway just before an interchange with Interstate 65 (I-65). The highway passes Whispering Pines Cemetery just before crossing over Eightmile Creek. Almost immediately, it intersects the southern terminus of SR 213 (South Shelton Beach Road). Approximately 1,000 feet (300 m) later is an intersection with the southern terminus of SR 217 (Lott Road). US 45 passes John F. Fagerstrom Municipal Park and then Collins–Rhodes Elementary School. It curves to the north-northeast and crosses over Seabury Creek. The highway curves to a nearly due north direction and has an interchange with SR 158 (Industrial Parkway). It curves back to the northwest and travels through Kushla, which is within the city limits of Prichard. Immediately after leaving the city, the highway crosses over Magee Creek. It then enters Mauvilla. Here, it intersects the southern terminus of County Route 78 (CR 78; Spice Pond Road). Just northeast of Mauvilla Cemetery is an intersection with the southern terminus of CR 55 (Kali Oka Road). US 45 curves to the north-northwest, leaves Mauvilla, and crosses over Williams Creek. It curves to the north and crosses over Silver Creek. It curves to the north-northeast and enters Chunchula. The highway curves back to the north-northwest and enters the main part of the community. There, the highway has an intersection with CR 63 (Chunchula–Georgetown Road/Roberts Road). It curves back to the northwest and crosses over Beaver Pond Creek. It curves back to the north-northwest and crosses over Sweetwater and Drinking branches. It heads to the north-northeast and crosses over Sand Hill Creek. In Gulfcrest, the highway intersects the eastern terminus of CR 92 (Gulfcrest Road). The highway curves to the north and passes McDavid–Jones Elementary School. Then, it enters Citronelle. Almost immediately is an intersection with CR 41 (Celeste Road), which begins to parallel the U.S. Highway. It passes Lott Middle School and then Pilgrims Rest Cemetery. At an intersection with the southern terminus of Main Street, CR 41 ends its paralleling of US 45. It curves to the north and crosses over Puppy Creek. In the main part of Citronelle, it has an intersection with both CR 96 (West State Street) and the northern terminus of CR 41 (East State Street). CR 96 has a brief unsigned concurrency with US 45. On the northeastern edge of the intersection is War Memorial Park. One block later, CR 96 splits off to the east, onto Lebaron Avenue. On the northeastern edge of the intersection, US 45 passes the new campus of Citronelle High School. It curves to the north-northwest and briefly leaves Citronelle. It passes Wesleyan Christian Academy and then re-enters the city for a very short stint. During the last stint, it crosses over Bennett Creek. Upon leaving the city, it enters Washington County.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Fruitdale AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Fruitdale residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fruitdale AL.
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