How to Find the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Moody Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Moody AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Moody residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Moody AL attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions 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 are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Moody AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Moody AL students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things 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 a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Moody AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Moody AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous 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 a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Moody AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Moody 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 after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 want to first consider those colleges that are within the Moody AL region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Moody AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Moody AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Moody Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Moody home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Moody Alabama.