How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Lafayette Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lafayette AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Lafayette homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this post 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 before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Lafayette AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Lafayette AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get 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 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Lafayette AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research 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 select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lafayette AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn 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 prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 Lafayette AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Lafayette AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Lafayette AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Lafayette AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lafayette AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Lafayette AL?
If you live near Lafayette 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.
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.
Master In Legal Studies Lafayette AL
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree school is an essential 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 Master In Legal Studies. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Lafayette home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lafayette AL.
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