How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Bessemer Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bessemer AL and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Bessemer homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Bessemer AL attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. 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 administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Bessemer AL is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bessemer AL area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. 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 also. A number of Bessemer AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Bessemer AL law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Bessemer AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain 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 may wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Bessemer AL area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Bessemer AL. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Bessemer AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Bessemer AL?
If you live near Bessemer 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.
Bessemer is a city southwest of Birmingham in Jefferson County, Alabama, United States. The population was 27,456 at the 2010 Census. It is within the Birmingham-Hoover, AL Metropolitan Statistical Area, of which Jefferson County is the center. It developed rapidly as an industrial city in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The town was founded in the postbellum era by the Bessemer Land and Improvement Company, named after Henry Bessemer and owned by coal magnate Henry F. DeBardeleben. He had inherited Daniel Pratt's investments. The mayor and councilmen voted to incorporate the city of Bessemer on September 9, 1887. Located 16 miles southwest of Birmingham, Bessemer grew rapidly and its promoters believed that it might overtake the other city in economic power.
Given the iron ore, coal and limestone deposits in the area, the city became a center of steelmaking from about 1890 through the 20th century. It attracted rural migrants from across the South, as well as European immigrants. By the 1950s, the city was majority African American in population.
Legal Administrative Assistant Schools Bessemer AL
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Legal Administrative Assistant Schools. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Bessemer home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Bessemer AL.
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