How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Chena Ridge Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chena Ridge AK and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Chena Ridge residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Chena Ridge AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions 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 transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. 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 attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Chena Ridge AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Chena Ridge AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Chena Ridge AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Chena Ridge AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Chena Ridge 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 the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Chena Ridge AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. 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 initially investigate those colleges that are within the Chena Ridge AK area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Chena Ridge AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Chena Ridge AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Chena Ridge Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal training school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered 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 residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chena Ridge Alaska.