How to Choose the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Moody Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Moody AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Moody homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at 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 essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Moody AL lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Moody AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Moody AL students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Moody 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 include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Moody AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 a few 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 if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Moody AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication 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 Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Moody AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Moody AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Moody AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Moody Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right legal assistant training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Moody home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Moody Alabama.