How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Montgomery Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Montgomery AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Montgomery residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Montgomery AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, 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 practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. 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 they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Montgomery AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Montgomery AL students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Montgomery AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Montgomery AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 some Montgomery 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 among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Montgomery AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area 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 may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Montgomery AL region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Montgomery AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Montgomery AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Montgomery Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Montgomery home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Montgomery Alabama.