How to Find the Right Paralegal Training Program near Gulf Shores Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gulf Shores AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Gulf Shores residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Gulf Shores AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually 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 Gulf Shores AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal 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. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss 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.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Gulf Shores 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 particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to research also, 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to 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 targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Gulf Shores AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education 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 determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Gulf Shores AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Gulf Shores AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Gulf Shores AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. 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 reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Gulf Shores AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Gulf Shores AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Gulf Shores AL?
If you live near Gulf Shores 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.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores is located on the Gulf of Mexico at 30°16'4.069" North, 87°42'5.285" West (30.267797, −87.701468). It is the southernmost settlement in the state of Alabama. It is served by Alabama State Route 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway), which leads north to Foley. Route 182 (Beach Boulevard) runs east-west along the shore front, while Route 180 (Fort Morgan Road) runs parallel to it, north of Little Lagoon. Gulf State Park occupies a large eastern part of the city.
Gulf Shores is located 33 miles (53 km) west of Pensacola, Florida, 54 miles (87 km) south of Mobile, 197 miles (317 km) east of New Orleans, 194 miles (312 km) south of Montgomery, and 55 miles (89 km) west of Navarre, Florida.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.0 square miles (72.5 km2), of which 23.2 square miles (60.0 km2) is land and 4.8 square miles (12.5 km2), or 17.24%, is water.
Paralegal Study Gulf Shores AL
Choosing the best legal assistant degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Study. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Gulf Shores home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Gulf Shores AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 3