How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Monroeville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Monroeville AL and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive 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 academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Monroeville homes. Of those options, they search 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 must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Monroeville AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Monroeville AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Monroeville AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet 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 sure 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 dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Monroeville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Monroeville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Monroeville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Monroeville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Monroeville AL region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Monroeville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Monroeville AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Monroeville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Monroeville residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection 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, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, 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 ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Monroeville Alabama.