How to Select a Paralegal Program near Montevallo Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Montevallo AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Montevallo homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Montevallo AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, 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 action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Montevallo AL is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed 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 career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Montevallo AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Montevallo AL law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Montevallo AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Montevallo AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging 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 a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Montevallo AL region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Montevallo AL. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Montevallo AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Montevallo AL?
If you live near Montevallo AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Montevallo is a city in Shelby County, Alabama, United States. A college town, it is the home of the University of Montevallo, a public liberal arts university with approximately 3,000 students. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city of Montevallo is 6,323. Dr. Hollie Campbell Cost, a professor in the College of Education at the University of Montevallo, serves as Mayor.
Montevallo is located at 33°6′18″N 86°51′46″W / 33.10500°N 86.86278°W / 33.10500; -86.86278 (33.1049, -86.8628). A plaque on Reynolds Cemetery Road, just off Alabama State Route 25, in the eastern corner of the town, marks the geographic center of the state of Alabama. Middle Street, formerly known as Main Street, had its name changed in 1899 for this reason, upon the completion of a new state survey.
The area where Montevallo is now was once controlled by the Creek Indians. After being acquired in 1814 Jesse Wilson claimed a small hill on the northern bank of the Shoal Creek and created a homestead there, making it the oldest settlement in Shelby County. Wilson's friends and family followed afterwards and also settled in the area, and a settlement known as Wilson's Hill developed on the site. The settlement's location at almost the exact center of Alabama meant it was considered one of the potential sites for the University of Alabama. In an attempt to encourage the university to choose the site the settlement changed its name to Montevallo, which is Italian for the hill in the valley.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal College near Montevallo AL
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Montevallo home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence 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 fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Montevallo AL.
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