How to Pick the Best Paralegal Course Near Moody Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Moody AL and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Moody residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Moody AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Moody AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Moody AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Moody AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out 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 the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Moody AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research 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 have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Moody AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Moody AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Moody AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Moody AL. Of course 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 Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Moody AL, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers 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 Best Moody Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Moody residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Moody Alabama.