How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Fultondale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fultondale AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Fultondale homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Fultondale AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Fultondale AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although 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. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Fultondale AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive 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 receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Fultondale AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Fultondale AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Fultondale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Fultondale AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Fultondale AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Fultondale AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, 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 receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Fultondale AL?
If you live near Fultondale Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
This area was once known as Fulton Springs. Prior to the building of Interstate 65, US 31 was the main route for travelers northbound from Birmingham towards Nashville, Tennessee. As a result, hotels such as the Keystone Lodge and Buchmann Motor Inn prospered. On the city's southern edge was located one of the few drive-in theatres in the Birmingham area (the "Skyview"). This was torn down when I-65 was built in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The Pine Bowl bowling alley is still a long time fixture in the city.Traces of the old routing of US 31 are still noticeable in the city. From just south of the city hall to an old bridge on this city's northern side, most of this old routing is known as Stouts Road or in some cases simply "old US 31."
Fultondale was a relatively stagnant community until the last decade. Growth has occurred in residential areas mainly west of Interstate 65, while retail development has focused along and near the I-65/Walkers Chapel Road exit.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.2 square miles (32 km2), all land. Fultondale is located along one of the many ridgelines that comprise the southern end of the Appalachian Mountain chain. The area has been thoroughly mined for coal and other minerals in the past 100 years. The city is served by two major north/south highways, Interstate 65 and US Highway 31. The new Interstate 22 encroaches on the city's western edge and on June 20, 2016, the interchange with I-65 just south of Fultondale opened. I-22 will provide direct interstate access to Memphis, Tennessee. Upon completion of Interstate 22, Fultondale will become the fourth Alabama city (after Birmingham, Montgomery, and Mobile) to be directly served by more than one two-digit interstate highway (I-65 & I-22). The only east/west thoroughfare of note is Walkers Chapel Road (west of US 31) and New Castle Road (east of US 31). Rail lines run north/south along the city's eastern edge from Boyles Yard in Tarrant to points north and east. Air travel is available from nearby Birmingham International Airport.
Paralegal Degree Requirements Fultondale AL
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Degree Requirements. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fultondale home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training 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 final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fultondale AL.
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