How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Fulton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fulton AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Fulton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable 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 Fulton AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited 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 clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Fulton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Fulton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know 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 also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Fulton AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs 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 make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Fulton AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Fulton AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Fulton AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Fulton AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Fulton AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fulton AL?
If you live near Fulton 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.
As of the census of 2000, there were 308 people, 122 households, and 87 families residing in the town. The population density was 123.6 people per square mile (47.8/km²). There were 139 housing units at an average density of 55.8 per square mile (21.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 82.14% White and 17.86% Black or African American.
There were 122 households out of which 38.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.0% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.9% were non-families. 27.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.07.
In the town, the population was spread out with 28.2% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 18.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males.
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Fulton AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fulton home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Fulton AL.
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