How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Bay Minette Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bay Minette AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Bay Minette homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Bay Minette AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Bay Minette AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bay Minette AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 already discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, 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 effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bay Minette AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 Bay Minette AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Bay Minette AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Bay Minette AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Bay Minette AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Bay Minette AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Bay Minette AL?
If you live near Bay Minette Alabama or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Bay Minette, Alabama
In the first days of Baldwin County, the town of McIntosh Bluff (now in Mobile County, west of Baldwin County) on the Tombigbee River was the county seat. After being transferred to the town of Blakeley in 1810, the county seat was later moved to the city of Daphne in 1868. In 1900, by an act of the legislature of Alabama, the county seat was authorized for relocation to the city of Bay Minette; however, the city of Daphne resisted relocation. The citizens of Bay Minette moved the county records from Daphne in the middle of the night on October 11–12, 1901 and delivered them to the city of Bay Minette - where the Baldwin County seat remains to this day. A mural for the new post office built in 1937 was commissioned by the WPA and painted by Hilton Leech, to commemorate this event.
In September 2011, the town attempted to enact a program called "Operation Restore Our Community". It would have allowed those convicted of a misdemeanor to substitute imprisonment with mandatory church attendance for one year. However, this program was challenged due to violating separation of church and state, and the program's start was delayed for judicial review. It appears to have been scrapped.
Bay Minette is located near the center of Baldwin County in southern Alabama at 30°53′0″N 87°46′38″W / 30.88333°N 87.77722°W / 30.88333; -87.77722 (30.883446, -87.777183). It is sited on high ground 5 miles (8 km) east of the Mobile River/Tensaw River valley and 6 miles (10 km) west of the Florida border formed by the Perdido River. U.S. Route 31 passes through the center of the city, leading south to Spanish Fort and northeast to Atmore. Interstate 65 passes about 5 miles (8 km) north of the city, with access from exit 34 (State Route 59) and exit 37 (State Route 287).
Legal Studies Training Bay Minette AL
Selecting the best legal assistant degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Legal Studies Training. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bay Minette residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bay Minette AL.
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