How to Select the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Montgomery Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Montgomery AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Montgomery residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should 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 what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants 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 are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Montgomery AL lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 start your career as a paralegal in Montgomery AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Montgomery AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Montgomery AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Montgomery AL law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Montgomery AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire 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 wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Montgomery AL area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. 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 aid may be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Montgomery AL. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Montgomery AL, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Montgomery AL?
If you live near Montgomery 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.
Montgomery is the capital city of the U.S. state of Alabama and the county seat of Montgomery County. Named for Richard Montgomery, it stands beside the Alabama River, on the coastal Plain of the Gulf of Mexico. In the 2010 Census, Montgomery's population was 205,764. It is the second most populous city in Alabama, after Birmingham, and is the 118th most populous in the United States. The Montgomery Metropolitan Statistical Area's population in 2010 was estimated at 374,536; it is the fourth largest in the state and 136th among United States metropolitan areas.
The city was incorporated in 1819 as a merger of two towns situated along the Alabama River. It became the state capital in 1846, representing the shift of power to the south-central area of Alabama with the growth of cotton as a commodity crop of the Black Belt and the rise of Mobile as a mercantile port on the Gulf Coast. In February 1861, Montgomery was chosen the first capital of the Confederate States of America, which it remained until the Confederate seat of government moved to Richmond, Virginia, in May of that year. In the middle of the 20th century, Montgomery was a major center of events and protests in the Civil Rights Movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the Selma to Montgomery marches.
In addition to housing many Alabama government agencies, Montgomery has a large military presence, due to Maxwell Air Force Base; public universities Alabama State University, Troy University (Montgomery campus), and Auburn University at Montgomery; two private post-secondary institutions, Faulkner University and Huntingdon College; high-tech manufacturing, including Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama; and many cultural attractions, such as the Alabama Shakespeare Festival and the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts.
Paralegal Studies Program Montgomery AL
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant training school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Studies Program. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Montgomery residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Montgomery AL.
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