How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Shelby Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Shelby AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Shelby residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Shelby AL attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys 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 complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Shelby AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue 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 employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Shelby AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 already discussed, there are other crucial issues to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Shelby AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Shelby AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Shelby AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Shelby AL region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Shelby AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Shelby AL, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary 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 cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Shelby AL?
If you live near Shelby 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.
Shelby County, Alabama
Shelby County is a county of the U.S. state of Alabama. As of the 2010 census the population was 195,085. The county seat is Columbiana. The county is named in honor of Isaac Shelby, Governor of Kentucky from 1792 to 1796 and again from 1812 to 1816.
Shelby County was established on February 7, 1818, and it was named for the Revolutionary War hero and the first Governor of Kentucky, Isaac Shelby. Beginning in 1820, the first county seat was located at Shelbyville. This settlement, long defunct, was located within the modern city limits of Pelham. The first courthouse was built of logs. The seat was moved to Columbia, now Columbiana, in 1826. Initially housed in an old school building, a new brick courthouse building was completed in 1854. It is now known as the Old Shelby County Courthouse and houses the Shelby County Museum and Archives. The current limestone courthouse was built from 1905–06, at a cost of $300,000.
Shelby County was the home of an early inland waterway, the Coosa River, and it was also the location of a very early east-west railroad in Alabama that connected Atlanta, Georgia, with locations to its west. Shelby County was also crossed by an early north-south railroad, the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, that connected Louisville, Nashville, Decatur, Birmingham, and Montgomery.
Associates Degree In Paralegal Shelby AL
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Associates Degree In Paralegal. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Shelby home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Shelby AL.
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