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How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near College Alaska

College Alaska woman paralegal consulting with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near College AK and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial 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 one of 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 options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their College residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

College Alaska legal library

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist College AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Researching applicable laws and cases
  • Composing correspondence and legal papers
  • Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
  • Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records

With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

College Alaska male paralegal speaking on phone taking notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in College AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools

College Alaska female student attending online paralegal trainingOnline paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to College AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs

Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the College AK area, in addition to vocational and trade 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 most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.

Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of College AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.

What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several College AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the College AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the College AK area.

What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in College AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near College AK, make certain 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. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About College Paralegal Courses

Enroll in the Best College Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the right paralegal studies certificate school is an important 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 on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your College residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in College Alaska.


 

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