How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Orange Beach Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Orange Beach AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Orange Beach homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Orange Beach AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly 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 noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional 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 authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Orange Beach AL is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Orange Beach AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Orange Beach AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Orange Beach AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Orange Beach AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically 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 hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Orange Beach AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Orange Beach AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Orange Beach AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Orange Beach AL?
If you live near Orange Beach 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.
Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach is located along the Gulf of Mexico, and is the easternmost community on Alabama's Gulf Coast, with Florida's Perdido Key bordering it to the east. The city of Gulf Shores is to the west.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.9 square miles (41.3 km2), of which 14.7 square miles (38.1 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.2 km2), or 7.83%, is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,441 people, 2,492 households, and 1,544 families residing in the city. The population density was 370 per square mile (140/km2). There were 11,726 housing units at an average density of 737.5 per square mile (284.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.3% White, 0.6% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 1.4% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. 2.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Right Paralegal Training near Orange Beach AL
Enrolling in the ideal 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Orange Beach home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Orange Beach AL.
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