How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Eagle River AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Eagle River homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Eagle River AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping 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 job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Eagle River AK is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Eagle River AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Eagle River AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Eagle River AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Eagle River AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Eagle River AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Eagle River AK region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Eagle River AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Eagle River AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Eagle River Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal training school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Eagle River home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Eagle River Alaska.