How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Bethel Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bethel AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of 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 options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Bethel homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Bethel AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Bethel AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Bethel AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bethel AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain 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 standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Bethel AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 call some Bethel AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Bethel AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish 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 need to first consider those colleges that are within the Bethel AK region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Bethel AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bethel AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Bethel Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Bethel home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Bethel Alaska.