How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Fairfield Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fairfield AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Fairfield residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions 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 help Fairfield AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 begin your career as a legal assistant in Fairfield AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fairfield AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Fairfield AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Fairfield AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Fairfield AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good 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 might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Fairfield AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Fairfield AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Fairfield AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Fairfield AL?
If you live near Fairfield 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.
Fairfield is a city in western Jefferson County, Alabama, United States. It is part of the Birmingham metropolitan area and is located southeast of Pleasant Grove. The population was 11,117 at the 2010 census.
This city was founded in 1910 in which the featured speaker at the dedication ceremony was former President Theodore Roosevelt. It was originally named Corey, after an executive of U.S. Steel Corporation. The name was later changed to the city in which the President of U.S. Steel lived, Fairfield, Connecticut. It was planned as a model city by the Tennessee Coal, Iron and Railroad Company to house workers in their new Fairfield Works plant, now owned by U.S. Steel, similar to its northeastern city of Ensley.
As of the census of 2000, there were 12,381 people, 4,600 households, and 3,141 families residing in the city. The population density was 3,503.8 people per square mile (1,354.2/km²). There were 4,960 housing units at an average density of 1,403.7 per square mile (542.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 8.90% White, 90.23% Black or African American, 0.06% Native American, 0.15% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.17% from other races, and 0.48% from two or more races. 0.59% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
How Long To Become A Paralegal Fairfield AL
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How Long To Become A Paralegal. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fairfield residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fairfield AL.
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