How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Montevallo Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Montevallo AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within driving range of their Montevallo residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Montevallo AL with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Montevallo AL paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Montevallo AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Montevallo AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Paralegal online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those in Montevallo AL searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing Montevallo AL area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Montevallo AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Montevallo AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Montevallo AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish 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 might wish to first look at those schools that are within your Montevallo AL local area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Montevallo AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Montevallo AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Montevallo AL?
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. 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 highway 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.
Montevallo was used by local farmers as a market town where they could sell and package their produce. It was incorporated as a city in 1848. In 1853 a railway was built between Montevallo and Selma which allowed further economic growth to Montevallo and in 1856 a coal mine was created nearby leading to further growth.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Montevallo AL
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Montevallo home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Montevallo AL.
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