How to Find the Right Paralegal School Near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Eagle River AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Eagle River residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Eagle River AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Eagle River AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Eagle River AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Eagle River AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential 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 important issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Eagle River AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Eagle River AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Eagle River AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Eagle River AK region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Eagle River AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Eagle River 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 select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Eagle River Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Eagle River home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Eagle River Alaska.