How to Find a Paralegal Program near Robertsdale Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Robertsdale AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Robertsdale homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Robertsdale AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular 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 the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Robertsdale AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Robertsdale AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must 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 many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Robertsdale AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Robertsdale AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Robertsdale AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Robertsdale AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Robertsdale AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Robertsdale AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater 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 school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Robertsdale AL?
If you live near Robertsdale 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.
Robertsdale is located in southern Baldwin County at 30°33'16.034" North, 87°42'20.038" West (30.554454, -87.705566).U.S. Route 90 (Old Spanish Trail) passes through the city, leading west 24 miles (39 km) to Mobile and east 35 miles (56 km) to Pensacola, Florida.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,276 people, 1,951 households, and 1,392 families residing in the city. The population density was 968 people per square mile (373.6/km²). There were 1,573 housing units at an average density of 357.3 per square mile (137.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.3% White, 5.4% Black or African American, 0.8% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 6.1% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. 9.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 1,951 households out of which 36.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.7% were non-families. 23.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.10.
Choose the Right Paralegal Program near Robertsdale AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Robertsdale home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Robertsdale AL.
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