How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Anchorage Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Anchorage AK and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Anchorage residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Anchorage AK attorneys with a wide range 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Anchorage AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Anchorage AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Anchorage AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some 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 School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Anchorage AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Anchorage AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though 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 provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Anchorage AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire 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 need to first consider those schools that are within the Anchorage AK region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Anchorage AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Anchorage AK, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Anchorage Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Anchorage residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anchorage Alaska.