How to Choose the Right 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 result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Monroeville residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, 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.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only 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 Monroeville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Monroeville AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages 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.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Monroeville AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Monroeville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must 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 many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Monroeville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Monroeville AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Monroeville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire 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 reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Monroeville AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Monroeville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Monroeville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Monroeville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Monroeville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Monroeville Alabama.