How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Columbiana Alabama
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Columbiana AL and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Columbiana homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting 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 too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Columbiana AL with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Columbiana AL paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 means to begin your career in Columbiana AL as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Columbiana AL.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for individuals in Columbiana AL searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Columbiana AL area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 covered, there are other significant aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Columbiana AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Columbiana AL paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Columbiana AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs 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 sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within your Columbiana AL local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Columbiana AL. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Columbiana AL, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Columbiana AL?
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.
Moving the courthouse to Columbiana was not necessarily popular in 1826 and there have been numerous attempts to relocate the county seat over the years. In 1901, the Alabama Constitutional Convention addressed the issue by including Section 41 in the new state constitution. Section 41 prohibited a move of the Shelby County seat from Columbiana unless a vote of the people was held, the only county in Alabama with such a designation.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Training near Columbiana AL
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Columbiana residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Columbiana AL.
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