How to Select a Paralegal Program near Bessemer Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bessemer AL and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Bessemer homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly 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 basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Bessemer AL with a wide variety of job duties, such as 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied 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 relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Bessemer AL paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Bessemer AL as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue 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 as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Bessemer AL.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those in Bessemer AL searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Bessemer 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 learn what questions to ask so that you can compare 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 begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial 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 investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Bessemer AL law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Bessemer AL paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Bessemer AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within your Bessemer AL local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Bessemer AL. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Bessemer AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Bessemer AL?
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.
Bessemer is situated in the midst of the iron ore and limestone district of Alabama, in the southern part of Jones Valley (about 3 miles (4.8 km) wide). Iron ore was mined on the hills on the city's southeast side, coal was (and still is) mined to the north and west, and limestone deposits were also nearby. All three ingredients were necessary for steelmaking, which led to the area becoming a major steel center from about 1890 through the twentieth century. Steel is no longer made within the city limits, but is still manufactured in the neighboring city of Fairfield.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Bessemer AL
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bessemer home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bessemer AL.
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