How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Badger Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Badger AK and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Badger homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Badger AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- 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 job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. 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 paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Badger AK is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Badger AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Badger AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 critical factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Badger AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Badger AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Badger AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Badger AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Badger AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Badger AK, 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. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Badger Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Badger home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to 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 wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Badger Alaska.