How to Find a Paralegal Program near Enterprise Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Enterprise AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Enterprise homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Enterprise AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very 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 they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Enterprise AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Enterprise AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Enterprise AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Enterprise AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Enterprise AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high 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 sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Enterprise AL region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Enterprise AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Enterprise AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Enterprise AL?
If you live near Enterprise 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.
Enterprise is a city in the southeastern part of Coffee County near the southwestern part of Dale County in the southeastern part of Alabama in the Southern United States. The population was 26,562 at the 2010 census. Enterprise is the primary city of the Enterprise Micropolitan Statistical Area (with the portion of the city located in Dale County part of the Ozark Micropolitan Statistical Area), and is also part of the Dothan-Enterprise-Ozark Combined Statistical Area.
Enterprise is famous for the Boll Weevil Monument, a large monument of a woman holding a boll weevil, which is located in the middle of Main Street. The city erected the statue because the destruction of the cotton crop by the boll weevil had led to agricultural diversity, starting with peanuts and more prosperity than had ever come from cotton alone. It is said to be the only statue to an insect pest in the world. Enterprise is right outside Fort Rucker, an Army base which is the home of Army Aviation.
The founder of Enterprise, John Henry Carmichael, first settled there in 1881. Carmichael opened a store, which attracted more settlers to the area, and by the next year a post office was relocated from the settlement of Drake Eye to the north to Enterprise. In 1896, with 250 people having settled there, the city of Enterprise incorporated. Soon afterward, the Alabama Midland Railway came to Enterprise, bringing with it opportunities for commerce and growth. By 1906, ten years after the city incorporated, its population had grown to 3,750.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Enterprise AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Enterprise home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Enterprise AL.
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