How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Lafayette Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lafayette AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Lafayette residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Lafayette AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Lafayette AL paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. 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 clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Lafayette AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Lafayette AL.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for those in Lafayette AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can 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 receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Lafayette AL area schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Lafayette AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Lafayette AL paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law practices 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 the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Lafayette AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those schools that are within your Lafayette AL local region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost 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 accessible to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Lafayette AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Lafayette AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Lafayette AL?
LaFayette (/ləˈfeɪ.ɛt, -ˈfaɪ-/ lə-F(A)Y-et, /ˈlʌfeɪ.ɛt/ LUF-ay-et) is the county seat of Chambers County, Alabama, United States, 47 miles (76 km) northwest of Columbus, Georgia. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 3,003.
Chambers County was formed in 1832. The newly elected county officials opted to locate the county seat as near as possible to the center of the county. Lots for the new town were auctioned in October 1833, with proceeds from the sale financing the construction of a courthouse and jail. The town was first called "Chambersville", but by the time of incorporation on January 7, 1835, the town name had been changed to "Lafayette", named after the Marquis de Lafayette; its spelling was changed to "LaFayette" due to the influence of newspaper editor Johnson J. Hooper, who created a fictional character called Captain Simon Suggs, a backwoods southerner who pronounced the town's name as "La Fait". The city's newspaper, The LaFayette Sun, was founded under the name The Alabama Standard in April 1841 and adopted its current name on August 3, 1881.
Lafayette is the birthplace of heavyweight boxing champion Joe Louis. An 8-foot (2.4 m) bronze statue, executed by sculptor Casey Downing Jr. of Mobile, Alabama, was erected in Louis' honor in front of the Chambers County courthouse. It is also the hometown of Hoyt L. Sherman, one of artist Roy Lichtenstein's principal art professor/mentors at Ohio State University.
LaFayette is located at 32°53'54.859" North, 85°24'2.822" West (32.898572, -85.400784). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.9 square miles (23.0 km2), of which 0.027 square miles (0.07 km2), or 0.31%, is water.
Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Lafayette AL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a crucial 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 at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lafayette residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lafayette AL.
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