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How to Pick the Best Paralegal Course Near Orange Beach Alabama

Orange Beach Alabama woman paralegal consulting with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Orange Beach AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Orange Beach residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Orange Beach Alabama law books

Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Orange Beach AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, 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 practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities can include:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Researching pertinent laws and cases
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
  • Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records

With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite 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 administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.

Paralegal Education and Certification

Orange Beach Alabama male legal assistant speaking on cellphone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Orange Beach AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require 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, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes

Orange Beach Alabama woman student attending online paralegal trainingLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Orange Beach AL students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools 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 school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.

Points to Ask Paralegal Programs

Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Orange Beach AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn 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 also. 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 discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Orange Beach AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Orange Beach AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Orange Beach AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Orange Beach AL area.

How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Orange Beach AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Orange Beach AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Orange Beach Online Paralegal Degree Programs

Enroll in the Best Orange Beach Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Orange Beach residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Orange Beach Alabama.


 

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