How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Training 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 gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Chena Ridge homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Chena Ridge AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Chena Ridge AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work 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 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Chena Ridge AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools 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 certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Chena Ridge AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 important issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Chena Ridge AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Chena Ridge AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Chena Ridge AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Chena Ridge AK area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Chena Ridge AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Chena Ridge AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Chena Ridge Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Chena Ridge home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several 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 selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chena Ridge Alaska.