How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Foley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Foley AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Foley homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Foley AL lawyers with a wide range 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized 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 functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main 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 number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Foley AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Foley AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 previously discussed, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Foley AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Foley AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Foley AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Foley AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned 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 assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Foley AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Foley AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least 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 looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Foley AL?
If you live near Foley 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.
Foley is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 14,618. Foley is a principal city of the Daphne–Fairhope–Foley Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Baldwin County.
Foley was named for its founder, John B. Foley of Chicago. As Foley was traveling to President McKinley's funeral in 1901, he met a railroad agent who told him of the area in South Baldwin County. Foley came down the following year, and he liked what he saw and bought up to between 40,000 acres (160 km2) and 50,000 acres (200 km2) of land. He then returned to Chicago and formed the Magnolia Land Company. As he began to sell off acreage, he realized the need for a better way for the people to come to Foley.
Foley used some of his own money to lay the rails so the train could come from Bay Minette. The first railroad station was built in 1905. The original station burned in 1908 and was replaced the following year by the station that is now the City's museum. John Foley donated parcels of land for a school and churches. These included the current Catholic Church, Saint Margret of Scotland, the Baptist church and the Methodist church. The first train to service Foley was a wood burner called the "Pine Knot Special." It would leave Foley in the morning and make a return trip in the afternoon. As people cleared the land, they would place lighter knots in a wood box for the engineer to use as was needed. Foley was incorporated in 1915 with G. I. Weatherly serving as its first mayor.
Enroll in the Ideal Legal Assistant Degree Program near Foley AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Foley residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Foley AL.
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