How to Choose a Paralegal School near Grand Bay Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Grand Bay AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive 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 a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Grand Bay residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential 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 exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Grand Bay AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transferring files 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 conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Grand Bay AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Grand Bay AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Grand Bay AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Grand Bay AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Grand Bay 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 entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire 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 first look at those schools that are within the Grand Bay AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Grand Bay AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Grand Bay AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Grand Bay AL?
If you live near Grand Bay 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.
Grand Bay, Alabama
Grand Bay is located at 30°28′27″N 88°20′31″W / 30.47417°N 88.34194°W / 30.47417; -88.34194 (30.474055, -88.341836), along U.S. Route 90 midway between the Alabama/Mississippi state line and the town of St. Elmo, a few miles inland from the Mississippi Sound.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,918 people, 1,364 households, and 1,078 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 452.3 people per square mile (174.7/km²). There were 1,441 housing units at an average density of 166.4 per square mile (64.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 89.00% White, 8.88% Black or African American, 0.23% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 0.13% from other races, and 0.92% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.87% of the population.
There were 1,364 households out of which 37.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 65.5% were married couples living together, 10.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 20.9% were non-families. 18.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.81 and the average family size was 3.19.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal School near Grand Bay AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Grand Bay residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types 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 choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Grand Bay AL.
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