How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Fayette Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fayette AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive 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 a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Fayette residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Fayette AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys 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 involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Fayette AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want 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 improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Fayette AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to 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 the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Fayette AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Fayette AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, 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 office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Fayette AL legal field. 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 upon 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 challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Fayette AL area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Fayette AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fayette AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fayette AL?
If you live near Fayette 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.
Originally known as "La Fayette", it incorporated on January 15, 1821. When Fayette County was created in 1824, the town's name was officially changed to "Fayette Court House", though it was also known as "Fayetteville", which was the name shown on maps and on the U.S. Census in 1880 and 1890. It was officially shortened to "Fayette" in 1898.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,922 people, 2,092 households, and 1,303 families residing in the city. The population density was 575.1 people per square mile (222.0/km²). There were 2,336 housing units at an average density of 273.0 per square mile (105.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 75.34% White, 23.38% Black or African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.30% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. One percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,092 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.85.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Fayette AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential 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 privacy and comfort of your Fayette residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fayette AL.
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