How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Atmore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Atmore AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Atmore residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Atmore AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Atmore AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Atmore AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, 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 researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Atmore AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Atmore AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Atmore AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Atmore AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Atmore AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Atmore AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example 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 might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Atmore AL?
If you live near Atmore 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.
Atmore is a city in Escambia County, Alabama, United States. It incorporated in 1907. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 10,194, with an estimated population of 10,006 in 2014. Atmore is in the planning stages to increase its economic base with additions in its new Rivercane development along the I-65 corridor.
Atmore has completed requirements to be recognized as an Alabama Community of Excellence at the upcoming Alabama League of Municipalities Convention. City officials are also working with the Alabama Historical Commission to have the downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Atmore is located in western Escambia County at 31°1′23″N 87°29′31″W / 31.02306°N 87.49194°W / 31.02306; -87.49194 (31.023183, -87.492067). Its southern border is the Florida state line. The center of town is at the intersection of U.S. Route 31 and Alabama State Route 21, while a new section of the city has been incorporated 6 miles (10 km) to the north around Exit 57 of Interstate 65. US 31 leads southwest 20 miles (32 km) to Bay Minette and east 28 miles (45 km) to Brewton. Mobile is 51 miles (82 km) to the southwest via US 31 and I-65, while Pensacola, Florida, is 49 miles (79 km) south via AL 21, Florida State Road 97, and U.S. Route 29.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal School near Atmore AL
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Atmore residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Atmore AL.
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