How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program 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 career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Moody homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. 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 before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Moody AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because 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 alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Moody AL is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 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 may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Moody AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Moody AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 important issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Moody AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Moody AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Moody AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Moody AL area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Moody AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving 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, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Moody Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Moody home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain 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 ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Moody Alabama.