How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies School Near College Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near College AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their College homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account 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 each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just 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 assist College AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather 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 restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in College AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to College AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the College AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many College AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 a few College AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the College AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the College AK region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, 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 aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in College AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near College AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best College Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your College home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in College Alaska.