How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Monroeville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Monroeville AL and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Monroeville residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have 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
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Monroeville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Monroeville AL is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Monroeville AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 crucial factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Monroeville AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out 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 field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Monroeville AL law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Monroeville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those schools that are within the Monroeville AL region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Monroeville AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Monroeville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Monroeville AL?
If you live near Monroeville 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.
It is known as the hometown of two prominent writers of the post-World War II period, Truman Capote and Harper Lee, who were childhood friends in the 1930s. Lee's 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, earned her the Pulitzer Prize. The lasting fame of To Kill a Mockingbird became a tourist draw for the town. In 1997, the Alabama Legislature designated Monroeville and Monroe County as the "Literary Capital of Alabama."
The town was initially known as Walker's Mill and Store, named for Major Walker, the area's first white settler. In 1832, the county seat was relocated to Monroeville from Claiborne on the Alabama River. The settlement was briefly renamed "Centerville" due to its location in the center of the county, but then it was formally changed to Monroeville. The town was not formally incorporated until April 15, 1899.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.4 square miles (34.7 km2), of which 13.4 square miles (34.6 km2) is land and 0.0077 square miles (0.02 km2), or 0.05%, is water.
Select the Best Legal Assistant School near Monroeville AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Monroeville home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide 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 program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Monroeville AL.
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