How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program near Orange Beach Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Orange Beach AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Orange Beach residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Orange Beach AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Orange Beach AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Orange Beach AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Orange Beach AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Orange Beach AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Orange Beach AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Orange Beach AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Orange Beach AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Orange Beach AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized 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 receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Orange Beach AL?
If you live near Orange Beach 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.
Orange Beach, Alabama
Orange Beach is located along the Gulf of Mexico, and is the easternmost community on Alabama's Gulf Coast, with Florida's Perdido Key bordering it to the east. The city of Gulf Shores is to the west.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 15.9 square miles (41.3 km2), of which 14.7 square miles (38.1 km2) is land and 1.2 square miles (3.2 km2), or 7.83%, is water.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,441 people, 2,492 households, and 1,544 families residing in the city. The population density was 370 per square mile (140/km2). There were 11,726 housing units at an average density of 737.5 per square mile (284.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 94.3% White, 0.6% Black or African American, 0.7% Native American, 0.8% Asian, 1.4% from other races, and 2.2% from two or more races. 2.6% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Online Paralegal Degree Programs Orange Beach AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Online Paralegal Degree Programs. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Orange Beach residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school 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. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Orange Beach AL.
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