How to Pick a Paralegal College near Foley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Foley AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Foley homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. 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 review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Foley AL with a wide variety 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 practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Foley AL paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative 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 manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Foley AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive 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 also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 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 first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Foley AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals in Foley AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee 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 highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing Foley AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many 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 important factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Foley AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Foley AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Foley AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. 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 justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within your Foley AL local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Foley AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Foley AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Foley AL?
Foley is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 14,618. Foley is a principal city of the Daphne–Fairhope–Foley Micropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Baldwin County.
Foley was named for its founder, John B. Foley of Chicago. As Foley was traveling to President McKinley's funeral in 1901, he met a railroad agent who told him of the area in South Baldwin County. Foley came down the following year, and he liked what he saw and bought up to between 40,000 acres (160 km2) and 50,000 acres (200 km2) of land. He then returned to Chicago and formed the Magnolia Land Company. As he began to sell off acreage, he realized the need for a better way for the people to come to Foley.
Foley used some of his own money to lay the rails so the train could come from Bay Minette. The first railroad station was built in 1905. The original station burned in 1908 and was replaced the following year by the station that is now the City's museum. John Foley donated parcels of land for a school and churches. These included the current Catholic Church, Saint Margret of Scotland, the Baptist church and the Methodist church. The first train to service Foley was a wood burner called the "Pine Knot Special." It would leave Foley in the morning and make a return trip in the afternoon. As people cleared the land, they would place lighter knots in a wood box for the engineer to use as was needed. Foley was incorporated in 1915 with G. I. Weatherly serving as its first mayor.
As of the census of 2010, there were 14,618 people, 6,165 households, and 4,124 families residing in the city. The population density was 530.8 people per square mile (205.1/km²). There were 7,359 housing units at an average density of 284.1 per square mile (198.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 77.1% White, 14.9% Black or African American, 0.6% Native American, 1.1% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 4.7% from other races, and 1.6% from two or more races. 9.5% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Foley AL
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Foley home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Foley AL.
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