How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Montevallo Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Montevallo AL and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Montevallo homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Montevallo AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Montevallo AL is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Montevallo AL area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should 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 help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Montevallo AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Montevallo AL law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Montevallo AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Montevallo AL area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Montevallo AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance 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 require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Montevallo AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Montevallo AL?
If you live near Montevallo 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.
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.
Certified Paralegal Programs Montevallo AL
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Certified Paralegal Programs. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Montevallo residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Montevallo AL.
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