How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Fairhope Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fairhope AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Fairhope homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 lawyers in Fairhope AL with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Fairhope AL paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 way to start your career in Fairhope AL as a paralegal 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 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Fairhope AL.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for students in Fairhope AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing Fairhope AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Fairhope AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Fairhope AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific 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. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Fairhope AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within your Fairhope AL local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, 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 may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Fairhope AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Fairhope AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Fairhope AL?
Fairhope is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States, on a sloping plateau, along the cliffs and shoreline of Mobile Bay. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 15,326. Fairhope is a principal city of the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area, which includes all of Baldwin County. In 2016, Fairhope was named the best small town in the South by Southern Living magazine.
Fairhope was founded in November 1894 on the site of the former Alabama City as a radical Georgist "Single-Tax" colony by the Fairhope Industrial Association, a group of 28 followers of economist Henry George who had incorporated earlier that year in Des Moines, Iowa. Their corporate constitution explained their purpose in founding a new colony:
In forming their demonstration project, they pooled their funds to purchase land at "Stapleton's pasture" on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay and then divided it into a number of long-term leaseholds. The corporation paid all governmental taxes from rents paid by the lessees, thus simulating a single-tax. The purpose of the single-tax colony was to eliminate disincentives for productive use of land and thereby retain the value of land for the community.
In 1907 educator Marietta Johnson founded the School for Organic Education in Fairhope. The school was praised in John Dewey's influential 1915 book Schools of Tomorrow. Dewey and Johnson were founding members of the Progressive Education Association.
Find the Right Paralegal College near Fairhope AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fairhope home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fairhope AL.
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