How to Select a Paralegal School near Fairfield Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fairfield AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Fairfield residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Fairfield AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. 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 attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education 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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Fairfield AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Fairfield AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn 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 prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fairfield AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Fairfield AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Fairfield AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose 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 need to first look at those colleges that are within the Fairfield AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Fairfield AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Fairfield AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools 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 reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fairfield AL?
If you live near Fairfield 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.
Fairfield is a city in western Jefferson County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Birmingham metropolitan area and is located southeast of Pleasant Grove. The population was 11,117 at the 2010 census.
This city was founded in 1910 in which the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony was former President Theodore Roosevelt. It was originally named Corey, after an executive of U.S. Steel Corporation. The name was later changed to the city in which the President of U.S. Steel lived, Fairfield, Connecticut. It was planned as a model city by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company to house workers in their new Fairfield Works plant, now owned by U.S. Steel, similar to its northeastern city of Ensley.
As of the census of 2000, there were 12,381 people, 4,600 households, and 3,141 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,503.8 people per square mile (1,354.2/km²). There were 4,960 housing units at an average density of 1,403.7 per square mile (542.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 8.90% White, 90.23% Black or African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 0.48% from two or more races. 0.59% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Find the Best Paralegal College near Fairfield AL
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fairfield residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fairfield AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 10