How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program near Monroeville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Monroeville AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Monroeville residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Monroeville AL lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers 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 job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Monroeville AL is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for 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 comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose 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 increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Monroeville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Monroeville AL law firms will only employ 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 Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including 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 Monroeville AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Monroeville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps 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, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Monroeville AL region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. 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 offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Monroeville AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Monroeville AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced 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 training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Monroeville AL?
If you live near Monroeville Alabama or perhaps 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.
Best Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Monroeville AL
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Best Online Paralegal Certificate Programs. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Monroeville home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Monroeville AL.
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