How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Enterprise Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Enterprise AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Enterprise homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Enterprise AL with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Enterprise AL paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career in Enterprise AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of 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 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Enterprise AL.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals in Enterprise AL looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Enterprise AL area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show 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. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Enterprise AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Enterprise AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within your Enterprise AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Enterprise AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Enterprise AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Enterprise AL?
Enterprise is a city in the southeastern part of Coffee County and 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.
The way of life in Enterprise came under threat in 1915. An infestation of boll weevils had found its way into the region's cotton crops, resulting in the destruction of most of the cotton in Coffee County. Facing economic ruin, the nearly bankrupt area farmers were forced to diversify, planting peanuts and other crops in an effort to lessen the damage and recoup some of the losses inflicted upon them by the invading insect.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal School near Enterprise AL
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Enterprise residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Enterprise AL.
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Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
Area of study: Certificate in Paralegal Studies. Ideal for: Professionals interested in working with attorneys in all areas of civil and criminal law as a paralegal and who wish to meet the educational requirements dictated by California Law. Current paralegals who seek to differentiate themselves with an ABA-approved Paralegal Studies Certificate.