Since 1989, the Gadsden State Paralegal program has provided students with the fundamental skills and training necessary for success. The program is recognized for providing high-quality training and education for students. It provides a balance of legal background and hands-on practical skills through training from lawyers who have practiced in the fields in which they teach.
The Paralegal program is an institutional member of the American Association for Paralegal Education as well as a sustaining member of the Alabama Association for Paralegals Inc. It is one of just a few two-year Paralegal programs in Alabama approved by the American Bar Association. ABA approval has become a benchmark for many employers who hire paralegals. To be considered for approval by the ABA, a program must meet standards adopted by the ABA Standing Committee on Paralegals. Approval was granted to the Gadsden State Paralegal program in 1994.
The American Bar Association defines a paralegal as a person qualified by education, training or work experience who is employed or retained by a lawyer, law office, corporation, governmental agency or other entity. A paralegal performs specifically delegated substantive legal work for which a lawyer is responsible. Paralegals may not provide legal services directly to the public, except as permitted by law.
Graduates of the Paralegal program may work in law firms, corporate legal departments, government offices, insurance companies and mortgage departments. They may assist lawyers with preparing for mediation, trials, corporate meetings, hearings, interviews and real estate closings as well as drafting pleadings, correspondence and discovery.
Mission: The mission of the Paralegal Studies program is to provide a quality paralegal education that prepares each student to work in a variety of paralegal positions by developing professional competence in both general and legal specialty areas through courses in substantive law, procedural law, and ethics, and by stressing understanding and reasoning through practical legal applications.
The program goal is to provide a general education with emphasis on substantive and procedural law and ethical principles. Students are required to apply their knowledge in practical assignments which will prepare them for entry-level paralegal positions working under the supervision of an attorney in the private or public sector.
Paralegal Program Specific Goals and Objectives:
- To prepare students to perform legal research using traditional library print materials as well as electronic sources, and to use proper legal citation.
- To prepare students to use forms and models for drafting legal documents related to contracts, domestic matters, probate, real property, torts, and criminal law.
- To enable students to understand the rules of professional conduct governing attorneys' actions and application of those rules upon paralegals.
- To respond to the needs of the local legal community by providing well-qualified paralegals.
- Gadsden State Paralegal Association
- Gadsden State Paralegal Association participates in pro bono activities and social opportunities. To join, contact Elizabeth Howard at 256-549-8336 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Lambda Epsilon Chi
- LEX is the national honor society founded by the American Association for Paralegal Education. Each year, students are selected for induction for their high academic achievements and accomplishments. They are recognized during a formal ceremony that includes a Certificate of Induction and a special pin.
- Alpha Beta Gamma
- Paralegal Studies students may be eligible for Alpha Beta Gamma, a business honor society also opened to those in Accounting Technology, Business Administration, Computer Science, Criminal Justices, Marketing and Office Administration. To be considered, students must complete 15 credit hours and must be taking or have taken at least one business or business-related class.
- Phi Beta Lambda
- Phi Beta Lambda is a business service organization offers some of the same benefits as the Future Business Leaders of America. Students must be enrolled in or completed at least one business or business-related course. To join, contact Angie Waits at 256-549-8342.
Legal specialty courses transferred from regionally-accredited programs must be evaluated by the program coordinator to ensure that the content of the courses is comparable to the Gadsden State courses before a student is accepted into the Paralegal Studies program, which is a selective-admissions program. Further criteria for transfer includes:
- Legal specialty courses taken at ABA-approved schools will transfer automatically to equivalent Gadsden State courses if the student has a grade of C or above in the course.
- No more than two legal specialty courses from programs that are not approved by the American Bar Association will be accepted for transfer.
- Legal studies courses from non-ABA out-of-state programs will not be considered for transfer credit.
- Transfer credit for Paralegal Studies courses will be limited to six semester credit hours.
- A student must be at least 10 semester credit hours in the legal specialty courses in a traditional classroom setting.
Please contact Program Coordinator Elizabeth Howard at 256-549-8336 or email@example.com.
Holding a professional certificate increases opportunities in the job market, though most firms and agencies do not require a paralegal to hold such certification.
- Paralegals may certify with the National Association of Legal Assistants and use the designation of Certified Paralegal (CP). To certify, professionals must meet established standards with regards to education and experience, and then pass a 2-day examination that is given in regional testing centers.
- The National Federation of Paralegal Associations offers another test, the Paralegal Advanced Competency Exam, (PACE) to paralegals with two years of experience. Registered Paralegal (RP) is the professional designation of those who pass this examination.