How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Chena Ridge Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chena Ridge AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Chena Ridge homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Chena Ridge AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could 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 lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Chena Ridge AK is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Chena Ridge AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about 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 formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chena Ridge AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential 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 significant aspects to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Chena Ridge AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Chena Ridge AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Chena Ridge AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Chena Ridge AK region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may 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 offered in Chena Ridge AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chena Ridge AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Chena Ridge Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Chena Ridge residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide 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 opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Chena Ridge Alaska.