How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Lafayette Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lafayette AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Lafayette residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Lafayette AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather 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 paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Lafayette AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can 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 available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job 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 initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Lafayette AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Lafayette 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 programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Lafayette AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which 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 excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Lafayette 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 Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Lafayette AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Lafayette AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lafayette AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated 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 Lafayette AL?
If you live near Lafayette 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.
LaFayette (/ləˈfeɪ.ɛt, -ˈfaɪ-/ lə-F(A)Y-et, /ˈlʌfeɪ.ɛt/ LUF-ay-et) is the county seat of Chambers County, Alabama, United States, 47 miles (76 km) northwest of Columbus, Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 3,003.
Chambers County was formed in 1832. The newly elected county officials opted to locate the county seat as near as possible to the center of the county. Lots for the new town were auctioned in October 1833, with proceeds from the sale financing the construction of a courthouse and jail. The town was first called "Chambersville", but by the time of incorporation on January 7, 1835, the town name had been changed to "Lafayette", named after the Marquis de Lafayette; its spelling was changed to "LaFayette" due to the influence of newspaper editor Johnson J. Hooper, who created a fictional character called Captain Simon Suggs, a backwoods southerner who pronounced the town's name as "La Fait". The city's newspaper, The LaFayette Sun, was founded under the name The Alabama Standard in April 1841 and adopted its current name on August 3, 1881.
Lafayette is the birthplace of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. An 8-foot (2.4 m) bronze statue, executed by sculptor Casey Downing Jr. of Mobile, Alabama, was erected in Louis' honor in front of the Chambers County courthouse. It is also the hometown of Hoyt L. Sherman, one of artist Roy Lichtenstein's principal art professor/mentors at Ohio State University.
Select the Right Legal Assistant Training near Lafayette AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lafayette home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lafayette AL.
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