How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Dauphin Island Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Dauphin Island AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Dauphin Island residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Dauphin Island AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite 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 restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Dauphin Island AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Dauphin Island AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected 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 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Dauphin Island AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Dauphin Island AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Dauphin Island AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend 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 colleges that are within the Dauphin Island AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Dauphin Island AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Dauphin Island AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into 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 formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Dauphin Island AL?
If you live near Dauphin Island AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Dauphin Island is a town in Mobile County, Alabama, United States, on a barrier island of the same name (split by the Katrina Cut), at the Gulf of Mexico. It incorporated in 1988. The population was 1,238 at the 2010 census. The town is included in the Mobile metropolitan area. The island (originally named "Massacre Island") was renamed for Louis XIV of France's great-grandson and heir, the dauphin, the future Louis XV of France. The name of the island is often mistaken as "Dolphin Island"; dauphin is "dolphin" in the French language.
The Gulf of Mexico is to the south of the island; the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay are to the north. The island's eastern end helps define the mouth of Mobile Bay. The eastern, wider portion of the island is shaded by thick stands of pine trees and saw palmettos, but the narrow, western part of the island features scrub growth and few trees.
Dauphin Island is home to Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Estuarium public aquarium, the Dauphin Island Airport, boat ramps, a large public pier (that sits on dry land), historic sites, several restaurants, new condominium developments, and numerous private homes. Beaches attract tourism, and fishing is a popular activity in the waters around the island. The island is connected to the mainland by the Gordon Persons Bridge.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Dauphin Island AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Dauphin Island residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Dauphin Island AL.
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