How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Program near Foley Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Foley AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Foley residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Foley AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually 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 standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Foley AL is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can 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 an option as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Foley AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Foley AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Foley AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional 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 offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Foley AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication 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 might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the Foley AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Foley AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Foley AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Foley AL?
If you live near Foley 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.
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 Springs Land Company, currently known as 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, railroad station, park and churches. These included the current Catholic Church, Saint Margaret of Scotland, the Baptist church and the Methodist church. He also invested in a hotel, a demonstration farm, a bank and the utility company.
Paralegal Degrees Foley AL
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Degrees. But as we have covered 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 residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Foley AL.
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