How to Find a Paralegal Certificate 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 satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Montgomery homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Montgomery AL with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Montgomery AL paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases 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 academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Montgomery AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Montgomery AL.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students in Montgomery AL looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting 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 caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Montgomery AL area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add 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 important issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Montgomery AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Montgomery AL paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Montgomery AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within your Montgomery AL local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Montgomery AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require 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 school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Montgomery AL?
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 is 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.
Montgomery has won several national awards: Best Historic City, by USA Today; All-America City in 2014, by the National Civic League; Top City for Job Growth in 2014, by ziprecruiter.com; and Happiest City in Alabama [according to whom?]. Montgomery has also been recognized nationally for its downtown revitalization and new urbanism projects. It was one of the first cities in the nation to implement Smart Code Zoning.
Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Montgomery AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. 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 Montgomery residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating 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 school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Montgomery AL.
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