How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Montevallo Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Montevallo AL and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Montevallo homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. 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 roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Montevallo AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Montevallo AL is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Montevallo AL students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain 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 dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Montevallo AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation 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 effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Montevallo AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Montevallo AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Montevallo AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many 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 Montevallo AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Montevallo AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Montevallo AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Montevallo Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Montevallo home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Montevallo Alabama.