How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Spanish Fort Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Spanish Fort AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Spanish Fort residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles 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 Spanish Fort AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Spanish Fort AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Spanish Fort AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Spanish Fort AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Spanish Fort AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Spanish Fort AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Spanish Fort AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Spanish Fort AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Spanish Fort AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Spanish Fort AL?
If you live near Spanish Fort AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Spanish Fort, Alabama
Spanish Fort is a city in Baldwin County, Alabama, United States, located on the eastern shore of Mobile Bay. The 2010 census lists the population of the city as 6,798. It is a suburb of Mobile and is part of the Daphne-Fairhope-Foley micropolitan area.
In November 2012, Spanish Fort built a community center to house its administrative offices and city amenities. The center is home to the city library, administrative offices, the office of the mayor, and other city-run services. The municipal complex is roughly 30,000 square feet and cost around $5 million to build. It sits on 17-acres of prime land and features a large pond with two fountains and a pavilion. The city also hosts community outreach events along with city council and budget meetings.
Spanish Fort is located at 30°40'7.403" North, 87°55'19.844" West (30.668723, -87.922179), above the east shore of the Blakeley River where it enters Mobile Bay. U.S. Routes 90 and 98 (Battleship Parkway) lead west across the Mobile River and its distributaries 9 miles (14 km) to Mobile. Interstate 10 passes just to the south of Spanish Fort, with access from exits 35 and 38, and leads west across Mobile Bay to Mobile as well.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant Training near Spanish Fort AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Spanish Fort home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school 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 programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Spanish Fort AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 9