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How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near College Alaska

College Alaska woman paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near College AK and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their College homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

College Alaska legal library

Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help College AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might involve:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
  • Composing correspondence and legal papers
  • Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Training and Certification

College Alaska male legal assistant speaking on phone taking notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in College AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training

College Alaska female student enrolled in online paralegal classesParalegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to College AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.

Points to Ask Paralegal Programs

Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the College AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many College AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several College AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation 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 excellent reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the College AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the College AK region.

How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in College AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near College AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About College Paralegal Certificate Programs

Enroll in the Right College Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the right legal assistant degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your College residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in College Alaska.


 

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