How to Find a Paralegal School near Fayette Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fayette AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. 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 options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Fayette homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Fayette AL with a wide range of job functions, 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, 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 practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare 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 Fayette AL paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Fayette AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available 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 legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Fayette AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals in Fayette AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of assessing Fayette AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fayette AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Fayette AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what 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 exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Fayette AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large 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 vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within your Fayette AL local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget 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 be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Fayette AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fayette AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Fayette AL?
Originally known as "La Fayette", it incorporated on January 15, 1821. When Fayette County was created in 1824, the town's name was officially changed to "Fayette Court House", though it was also known as "Fayetteville", which was the name shown on maps and on the U.S. Census in 1880 and 1890. It was officially shortened to "Fayette" in 1898.
As of the census of 2000, there were 4,922 people, 2,092 households, and 1,303 families residing in the city. The population density was 575.1 people per square mile (222.0/km²). There were 2,336 housing units at an average density of 273.0 per square mile (105.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 75.34% White, 23.38% Black or African American, 0.12% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.30% from other races, and 0.57% from two or more races. One percent of the population was Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,092 households out of which 26.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.2% were married couples living together, 14.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.7% were non-families. 35.5% of all households were made up of individuals and 19.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.20 and the average family size was 2.85.
In the city, the population was spread out with 21.4% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 24.2% from 25 to 44, 23.9% from 45 to 64, and 21.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 42 years. For every 100 females there were 81.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 75.7 males.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Training near Fayette AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fayette home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fayette AL.
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