How to Pick a Paralegal School near Mobile Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Mobile AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Mobile homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective 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 available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Mobile AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Mobile AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Mobile AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School 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 program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Mobile AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Mobile AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Mobile AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the 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 require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Mobile AL area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Mobile AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Mobile 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 select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting 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 guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Mobile AL?
If you live near Mobile 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.
Mobile (/moʊˈbiːl/ moh-BEEL; French pronunciation: [mɔ.bil]) is the county seat of Mobile County, Alabama, United States. The population within the city limits was 195,111 as of the 2010 United States Census, making it the third most populous city in Alabama, the most populous in Mobile County, and the largest municipality on the Gulf Coast between New Orleans, Louisiana, and St. Petersburg, Florida.
Alabama's only saltwater port, Mobile is located on the Mobile River at the head of the Mobile Bay and the north-central Gulf Coast. The Port of Mobile has always played a key role in the economic health of the city, beginning with the settlement as an important trading center between the French colonists and Native Americans, down to its current role as the 12th-largest port in the United States.
Mobile is the principal municipality of the Mobile metropolitan area. This region of 412,992 residents is composed solely of Mobile County; it is the third-largest metropolitan statistical area in the state. Mobile is the largest city in the Mobile-Daphne−Fairhope CSA, with a total population of 604,726, the second largest in the state. As of 2011[update], the population within a 60-mile (100 km) radius of Mobile is 1,262,907.
Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Mobile AL
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Mobile home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Mobile AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 9