How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Monroeville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Monroeville AL and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Monroeville residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Monroeville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, 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 might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, 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 diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Monroeville AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining 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 Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Monroeville AL students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Monroeville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Monroeville AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Monroeville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Monroeville AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign 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? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Monroeville AL area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Monroeville AL. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Monroeville AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Monroeville Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Monroeville residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Monroeville Alabama.