How to Find a Paralegal Training 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 satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Bay Minette residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Bay Minette AL attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Bay Minette AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Bay Minette AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bay Minette AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have 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. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Bay Minette AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Bay Minette AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Bay Minette AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, 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 obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Bay Minette AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Bay Minette AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Bay Minette AL?
If you live near Bay Minette 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.
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 of Bridgeport, Connecticut, 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).
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Bay Minette AL
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bay Minette home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bay Minette AL.
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