How to Find the Right Paralegal School Near Moody Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Moody AL and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Moody residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have 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 hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Moody AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Moody AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Moody AL students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Moody AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Moody AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Moody AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Moody AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance 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 students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge 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 Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Moody AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Moody 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 enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Moody Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Moody residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Moody Alabama.