How to Find a Paralegal Program near Robertsdale Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Robertsdale AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Robertsdale residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Robertsdale AL with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Robertsdale AL paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Robertsdale AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Robertsdale AL.
Online Paralegal Certificates
Paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals in Robertsdale AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Robertsdale AL area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools 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 choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Robertsdale AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Robertsdale AL paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including 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 law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Robertsdale AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Robertsdale AL local area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Robertsdale AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Robertsdale AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Robertsdale AL?
Robertsdale is located in southern Baldwin County at 30°33'16.034" North, 87°42'20.038" West (30.554454, -87.705566).U.S. Route 90 (Old Spanish Trail) passes through the city, leading west 24 miles (39 km) to Mobile and east 35 miles (56 km) to Pensacola, Florida.
As of the census of 2010, there were 5,276 people, 1,951 households, and 1,392 families residing in the city. The population density was 968 people per square mile (373.6/km²). There were 1,573 housing units at an average density of 357.3 per square mile (137.9/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.3% White, 5.4% Black or African American, 0.8% Native American, 0.5% Asian, 6.1% from other races, and 1.9% from two or more races. 9.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 1,951 households out of which 36.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 14.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.7% were non-families. 23.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.64 and the average family size was 3.10.
In the city, the population was 27.3% under the age of 18, 9.0% from 18 to 24, 28.7% from 25 to 44, 20.9% from 45 to 64, and 14.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 33.8 years. For every 100 females, there were 89.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.9 males. The median income for a household in the city was $41,750, and the median income for a family was $47,253. Males had a median income of $41,822 versus $26,239 for females. The per capita income for the city was $20,696. About 8.1% of families and 10.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.2% of those under age 18 and 9.7% of those age 65 or over.
Select the Ideal Paralegal College near Robertsdale AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 comfort and privacy of your Robertsdale home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Robertsdale AL.
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