How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program 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 fulfilling 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 most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Chena Ridge homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chena Ridge AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Chena Ridge AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those searching 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 added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 sure that the program and school 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 obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chena Ridge AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chena Ridge AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Chena Ridge AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Chena Ridge AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Chena Ridge AK area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Chena Ridge AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue 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 offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Chena Ridge Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Chena Ridge residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect 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 decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chena Ridge Alaska.