How to Find a Paralegal School near Moulton Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Moulton AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Moulton residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Moulton AL lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Moulton AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice 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 respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Moulton AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can 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 potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Moulton AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Moulton AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Moulton 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 upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing 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 good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Moulton AL area.
What is the Entire Cost? 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 cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Moulton AL. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Moulton AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Moulton AL?
If you live near Moulton 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.
Moulton is a city in Lawrence County, Alabama, United States and is included in the Decatur Metropolitan Area, as well as the Huntsville-Decatur Combined Statistical Area. Although it incorporated in 1819, along with its rival of Courtland, to compete for the honor of county seat, it did not first appear on the U.S. Census rolls until 1900. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 3,471, its record high. The city has been the county seat of Lawrence County since 1820. It has been the largest community in the county since the 1920 U.S. Census.
By the time Alabama became a state in 1819, an inn had been erected at the site of what is now Moulton to serve migrants along the various early paths that passed through the area. Shortly after Alabama achieved statehood, both Moulton and Courtland (to the north) incorporated and competed for the county seat of Lawrence County. Governor Thomas Bibb awarded the seat to Moulton as the most centrally located of the two within the county. The city is named for Lieutenant Michael Moulton, a soldier killed while fighting under General Andrew Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in 1814.
Moulton is located at 34°28′56″N 87°17′8″W / 34.48222°N 87.28556°W / 34.48222; -87.28556 (34.482307, -87.285621). The city is concentrated along Alabama State Route 33 southwest of Decatur. Alabama State Route 24 passes through the northern part of the city, and Alabama State Route 157 passes through its eastern section. The William B. Bankhead National Forest lies to the southwest of Moulton.
Choose the Right Paralegal Program near Moulton AL
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed 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 Moulton home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Moulton AL.
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