How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree 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 career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate 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 a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Orange Beach residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Orange Beach AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Orange Beach AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those searching 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 earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Orange Beach AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. 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 also. A number of Orange Beach AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good 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 some Orange Beach AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Orange Beach AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Orange Beach AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Orange Beach AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Orange Beach AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Orange Beach Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Orange Beach Alabama.