How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies School Near College Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near College AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession 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 understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their College homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help College AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume 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 possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in College AK is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When 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 practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to College AK students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the College AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation 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 School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of College AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few College AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the College AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing 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 probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the College AK region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in College AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near College AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right College Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your College home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities 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 regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in College Alaska.