How to Find the Right Legal Assistant School near Birmingham Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Birmingham AL and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Birmingham homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Birmingham AL lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers 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 additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Birmingham AL is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Birmingham AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 crucial aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Birmingham AL law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Birmingham AL law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Birmingham AL legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing 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 confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alabama or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the Birmingham AL region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Birmingham AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Birmingham AL, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Birmingham AL?
If you live near Birmingham 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.
Birmingham (/ˈbɜːrmɪŋhæm/ BUR-ming-ham) is a city in the north central region of the U.S. state of Alabama. With an estimated 2018 population of 209,880, it is the most populous city in Alabama. Birmingham is the seat of Jefferson County, Alabama's most populous and fifth largest county. As of 2018, the Birmingham-Hoover Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 1,151,801, making it the most populous in Alabama and 49th-most populous in the United States. Birmingham serves as an important regional hub and is associated with the Deep South, Piedmont, and Appalachian regions of the nation.
Birmingham was founded in 1871, during the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, through the merger of three farm towns, most notably Elyton. The new city was named for Birmingham, England, the UK's second largest city and, at the time, a major industrial center. The Alabama city annexed smaller neighbors and developed as an industrial center, based on mining, the new iron and steel industry, and rail transport. Most of the original settlers who founded Birmingham were of English ancestry. The city was developed as a place where cheap, non-unionized immigrant labor (primarily Irish and Italian), along with African-American labor from rural Alabama, could work in the city's steel mills and blast furnaces, giving it a competitive advantage over unionized industrial cities in the Midwest and Northeast.:14
From its founding through the end of the 1960s, Birmingham was a primary industrial center of the southern United States. Its rapid growth from 1881 through 1920 earned it the nicknames "The Magic City" and "The Pittsburgh of the South". Its major industries were iron and steel production. Major components of the railroad industry, rails and railroad cars, were manufactured in Birmingham. Since the 1860s, the two primary hubs of railroading in the "Deep South" have been Birmingham and Atlanta. The economy diversified in the latter half of the 20th century. Banking, telecommunications, transportation, electrical power transmission, medical care, college education, and insurance have become major economic activities. Birmingham ranks as one of the largest banking centers in the U.S. Also, it is among the most important business centers in the Southeast.
Legal Studies Schools Birmingham AL
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a crucial 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 Studies Schools. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Birmingham home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide 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 profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Birmingham AL.
Other Alabama Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 21