How to Find the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Fairhope Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fairhope AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Fairhope residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only 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 assist Fairhope AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting documents 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 comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Fairhope AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Fairhope AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Fairhope AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Fairhope AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Fairhope AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask 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 sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Fairhope AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Fairhope AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Fairhope AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Fairhope AL?
If you live near Fairhope 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.
Fairhope is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States, on a sloping plateau, along the cliffs and shoreline of Mobile Bay. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 15,326. Fairhope is a principal city of the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area, which includes all of Baldwin County. In 2016, Fairhope was named the best small town in the South by Southern Living magazine.
Fairhope was founded in November 1894 on the site of the former Alabama City as a radical Georgist "Single-Tax" colony by the Fairhope Industrial Association, a group of 28 followers of economist Henry George who had incorporated earlier that year in Des Moines, Iowa. Their corporate constitution explained their purpose in founding a new colony:
In forming their demonstration project, they pooled their funds to purchase land at "Stapleton's pasture" on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and then divided it into a number of long-term leaseholds. The corporation paid all governmental taxes from rents paid by the lessees, thus simulating a single-tax. The purpose of the single-tax colony was to eliminate disincentives for productive use of land and thereby retain the value of land for the community.
Online Paralegal Studies Fairhope AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Online Paralegal Studies. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Fairhope residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade 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 carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fairhope AL.
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