How to Pick the Right Paralegal Course Near Orange Beach Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Orange Beach AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Orange Beach residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary 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 school should be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare 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 quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Orange Beach AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Orange Beach AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Orange Beach AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Orange Beach AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 some Orange Beach AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Orange Beach AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. 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 acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend 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 Orange Beach AL area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may 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 offered in Orange Beach AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Orange Beach AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Orange Beach Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Orange Beach residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Orange Beach Alabama.