How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Fulton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fulton AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Fulton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions 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 assist Fulton AL attorneys 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 relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Fulton AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Fulton AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly 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 begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several 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 School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fulton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular 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. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Fulton AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fulton AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Fulton AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received 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 may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Fulton AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Fulton AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Fulton AL?
If you live near Fulton 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.
As of the census of 2000, there were 308 people, 122 households, and 87 families residing in the town. The population density was 123.6 people per square mile (47.8/km²). There were 139 housing units at an average density of 55.8 per square mile (21.6/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 82.14% White and 17.86% Black or African American.
There were 122 households out of which 38.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 59.0% were married couples living together, 9.8% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.9% were non-families. 27.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.07.
In the town, the population was spread out with 28.2% under the age of 18, 8.8% from 18 to 24, 27.6% from 25 to 44, 18.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.2 males.
Online Paralegal Program Fulton AL
Selecting the best legal assistant training program 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 Online Paralegal Program. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fulton residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fulton AL.
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