How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Bethel Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bethel AK and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Bethel residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Bethel AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Bethel AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Bethel AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Bethel AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate 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 looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Bethel AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Bethel AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Bethel AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Bethel AK region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Bethel AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bethel AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Bethel Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Bethel residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Bethel Alaska.