How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Dauphin Island Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Dauphin Island AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Dauphin Island residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Dauphin Island AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally 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 stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. 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 they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Dauphin Island AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages 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.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Dauphin Island AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know 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 begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, including 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Dauphin Island AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming 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 verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Dauphin Island AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Dauphin Island AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Dauphin Island AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Dauphin Island AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Dauphin Island AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Dauphin Island AL?
If you live near Dauphin Island 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.
Dauphin Island, Alabama
Dauphin Island is a town in Mobile County, Alabama, United States, on a barrier island of the same name (split by the Katrina Cut), at the Gulf of Mexico. It incorporated in 1988. The population was 1,238 at the 2010 census. The town is included in the Mobile metropolitan area. The island (originally named "Massacre Island") was renamed for Louis XIV of France's great-grandson and heir, the dauphin, the future Louis XV of France. The name of the island is often mistaken as "Dolphin Island"; dauphin is "dolphin" in the French language.
The Gulf of Mexico is to the south of the island; the Mississippi Sound and Mobile Bay are to the north. The island's eastern end helps define the mouth of Mobile Bay. The eastern, wider portion of the island is shaded by thick stands of pine trees and saw palmettos, but the narrow, western part of the island features scrub growth and few trees.
Dauphin Island is home to Fort Gaines, Dauphin Island Sea Lab, The Estuarium public aquarium, the Dauphin Island Airport, boat ramps, a large public pier (that sits on dry land), historic sites, several restaurants, new condominium developments, and numerous private homes. Beaches attract tourism, and fishing is a popular activity in the waters around the island. The island is connected to the mainland by the Gordon Persons Bridge.
Paralegal Courses Online Dauphin Island AL
Enrolling in the right legal assistant degree school is a crucial 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 Paralegal Courses Online. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Dauphin Island residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Dauphin Island AL.
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