How to Pick a Paralegal School near Atmore Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Atmore AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Atmore homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, only 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 attorneys in Atmore AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Atmore AL 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 paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career in Atmore AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive 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 also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although 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. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Atmore AL.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those in Atmore AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized 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 guarantee that the training 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 respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing Atmore AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 previously covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain 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 standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Atmore AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Atmore AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Atmore AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within your Atmore AL local area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Atmore AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Atmore AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Atmore AL?
Atmore is a city in Escambia County, Alabama, United States. It incorporated in 1907. As of the 2010 census it had a population of 10,194, with an estimated population of 10,006 in 2014. Atmore is in the planning stages to increase its economic base with additions in its new Rivercane development along the I-65 corridor.
Atmore has completed requirements to be recognized as an Alabama Community of Excellence at the upcoming Alabama League of Municipalities Convention. City officials are also working with the Alabama Historical Commission to have the downtown district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Atmore is located in western Escambia County at 31°1′23″N 87°29′31″W / 31.02306°N 87.49194°W / 31.02306; -87.49194 (31.023183, -87.492067). Its southern border is the Florida state line. The center of town is at the intersection of U.S. Route 31 and Alabama State Route 21, while a new section of the city has been incorporated 6 miles (10 km) to the north around Exit 57 of Interstate 65. US 31 leads southwest 20 miles (32 km) to Bay Minette and east 28 miles (45 km) to Brewton. Mobile is 51 miles (82 km) to the southwest via US 31 and I-65, while Pensacola, Florida, is 49 miles (79 km) south via AL 21, Florida State Road 97, and U.S. Route 29.
As of the census of 2010, the population density was 1228 people per square mile (469.8/km2). There were 3,480 housing units at an average density of 419.3 per square mile (160.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 55.4% Black or African American, 39.3% White, 1.8% Native American, 0.3% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.1% from other races, and 1.3% from two or more races. 1.8% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Atmore AL
Selecting the right paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Atmore home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Atmore AL.
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