How to Pick the Best Paralegal Program Near Badger Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Badger AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Badger residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Badger AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Badger AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the field 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Badger AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Badger AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Badger AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 some Badger AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Badger AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. 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 a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Badger AK area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Badger AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Badger AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Badger Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Badger home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Badger Alaska.