How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near College Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near College AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their College homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals 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 functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in College AK is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to College AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the College AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many College AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training 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 a few College AK law firms that you may be interested 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 exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the College AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the College AK area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost 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 add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in College AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near College AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right College Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your College residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in College Alaska.