How to Choose a Paralegal College near Columbia Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Columbia AL and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving range of their Columbia residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Columbia AL with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Columbia AL paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually 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 start your career in Columbia AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work 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 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Columbia AL.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students in Columbia AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Columbia AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can 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 many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Columbia AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Columbia AL paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Columbia AL legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within your Columbia AL local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Columbia AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Columbia AL, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Columbia AL?
At the age of 18 Columbia was hired to assist Bill Sienkiewicz in illustrating Alan Moore's ambitious Big Numbers series. When Sienkiewicz withdrew from the series in 1990 after the release of the first two issues, Moore and his backers at Tundra Publishing asked the young Columbia to become its sole artist. In 1992, with no more issues released, Columbia himself left the project under a cloud of rumors and accusations, including claims that he had destroyed his own artwork for Big Numbers #4. Columbia declined to address the subject publicly for several years, writing in a 1998 letter to The Comics Journal that "I could easily launch into a tirade about the extensive horror of my Tundra experience, but I much prefer the very entertaining and conflicting accounts already in circulation." In later statements he confirmed that he destroyed his artwork but disputed other claims by the principal figures in the fiasco.
In a 2011 article reflecting on his Big Numbers experience, Sienkiewicz wrote that he and Columbia had long since reconciled over the matter, and that he was content to "[c]halk the feud up to the folly of youth."
Columbia's first solo comic book, Doghead, was released by Tundra Publishing in 1992. He contributed to three issues of the horror anthology From Beyonde in the early nineties, initially under the pen name "Lucien" and then under his own name. His stories "The Biologic Show" and "Tar Frogs" also appeared in the British magazine Deadline. In these works, which focused on visceral and disturbing subject matter including mutilation, incest, and the occult, he moved away from the glossy photorealism of his time with Sienkiewicz towards a scabrous but virtuosic pen-and-ink style that emphasized grotesque physiognomic details such as grinning mouths full of teeth and leering, reptilian eyes.
In 1994 Fantagraphics Books published Columbia's comic The Biologic Show #0. It contained partially redrawn versions of his stories from Deadline along with new works. It received mostly enthusiastic reviews and praise from other cartoonists including Mike Allred and Jim Woodring.The Biologic Show #1 followed in 1995, featuring the first part of a never-completed graphic novel, Peloria; an issue #2 was advertised but never appeared. Also in 1995, "I Was Killing When Killing Wasn't Cool" became the first of a series of two color short stories by Columbia to appear in the Fantagraphics anthology Zero Zero. In these works, noted for their striking visual rhythms and their vivid atmosphere of dread, he adopted a more streamlined drawing style evocative of early animated cartoons, particularly the works of Fleischer Studios. In later stories such as "Amnesia" and "Alfred the Great" Columbia combined cel animation-influenced character drawings with minutely detailed chiaroscuro backgrounds and some use of digital illustration techniques and photo manipulation. "The Trumpets They Play!", a widely lauded work in this style based on the Book of Revelation, appeared in BLAB! #10 in 1998.
Find the Best Paralegal Training near Columbia AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Columbia home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types 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 school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Columbia AL.
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