How to Select a Paralegal School near Fairfield Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fairfield AL and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting range of their Fairfield residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Fairfield AL with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Fairfield AL paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Fairfield AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive 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 an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Fairfield AL.
Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students in Fairfield AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Fairfield AL area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Fairfield AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Fairfield AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Fairfield AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within your Fairfield AL local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Fairfield AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Fairfield AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Fairfield AL?
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.
There were 4,600 households out of which 34.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 35.6% were married couples living together, 28.4% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.7% were non-families. 29.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.55 and the average family size was 3.17.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Training near Fairfield AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Fairfield residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact 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 best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fairfield AL.
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