How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Shelby Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Shelby AL and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving range of their Shelby homes. Of those choices, 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 factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Shelby AL with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Shelby AL paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Shelby AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Shelby AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal online programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those in Shelby AL looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online 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 quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing Shelby AL area schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Shelby AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Shelby AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Shelby AL legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within your Shelby AL local region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Shelby AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Shelby AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Shelby AL?
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.
With the advent of the automobile and the truck, Shelby County was soon crossed from north to south by U.S. Highway 31, the major one that followed the same route as the Louisville and Nashville Railroad did. (All U.S. Highways, with "one" as their last of two digits are major north-south ones: e.g. U.S. 11, 21, 31, 41, 51, 61, and 71.) The eastern part of Shelby County was later crossed by U.S. Highway 231 and U.S. 280
Select the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Shelby AL
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Shelby residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Shelby AL.
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