How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Gulf Shores Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Gulf Shores AL and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Gulf Shores residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Gulf Shores AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Gulf Shores AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages 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.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Gulf Shores AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Gulf Shores AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 several Gulf Shores AL law offices 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 among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Gulf Shores AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose 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 wish to first look at those schools that are within the Gulf Shores AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Gulf Shores AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Gulf Shores AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Gulf Shores AL?
If you live near Gulf Shores 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.
Gulf Shores, Alabama
Gulf Shores is located on the Gulf of Mexico at 30°16'4.069" North, 87°42'5.285" West (30.267797, −87.701468). It is the southernmost settlement in the state of Alabama. It is served by Alabama State Route 59 (Gulf Shores Parkway), which leads north to Foley. Route 182 (Beach Boulevard) runs east-west along the shore front, while Route 180 (Fort Morgan Road) runs parallel to it, north of Little Lagoon. Gulf State Park occupies a large eastern part of the city.
Gulf Shores is located 33 miles (53 km) west of Pensacola, Florida, 54 miles (87 km) south of Mobile, 197 miles (317 km) east of New Orleans, 194 miles (312 km) south of Montgomery, and 55 miles (89 km) west of Navarre, Florida.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 28.0 square miles (72.5 km2), of which 23.2 square miles (60.0 km2) is land and 4.8 square miles (12.5 km2), or 17.24%, is water.
Find the Best Legal Assistant College near Gulf Shores AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Gulf Shores home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community 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 opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gulf Shores AL.
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