How to Pick the Right Paralegal School near Columbiana Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Columbiana AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Columbiana homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered 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. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Columbiana AL lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Columbiana AL is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Columbiana AL area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, 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 Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Columbiana AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Columbiana AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Columbiana AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Columbiana AL area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Columbiana AL. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Columbiana AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Columbiana AL?
If you live near Columbiana 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.
Columbiana, originally called Columbia, was selected as the county seat of Shelby County in 1826 over rivals Calera and Montevallo. After the selection as the county seat, Columbiana celebrated by drilling holes in a large pine tree and packing it with gunpowder. The tree was blown up and the sound could be heard for miles. Later in 1826, the courthouse was moved to an old school building in Columbiana.
An act of the Alabama Legislature officially changed the name of Shelby County's county seat to Columbiana on January 13, 1832. Columbiana was incorporated on December 5, 1837 with corporate limits one-quarter of a mile in each direction from the public square.
In 1854, the decision was made to build a larger courthouse at the south end of “Silk Stocking Road”, now Main Street. From 1854 to 1908 several additions and changes were made to the courthouse. During the American Civil War, Columbiana was connected to the nearby town of Shelby by the Shelby Iron Company Railroad, which connected the Shelby Iron Works to the Alabama and Tennessee River Railroad. The Iron Works supplied iron to the C.B. Churchill and Company foundry, which moved to Columbiana in 1862 after the fall of Corinth, Mississippi. The Churchill foundry made eight and ten pound shot, eight and ten pound shells, and shells for Blakely rifles. The C.B. Churchill and Company foundry, Shelby Iron Works and the railroad were destroyed by Union forces on March 31, 1865, as part of Wilson's Raid.
Paralegal Studies Online Columbiana AL
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree program is an essential 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 Paralegal Studies Online. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Columbiana home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Columbiana AL.
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