How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Course 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 gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of 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 numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Eagle River 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 college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Eagle River AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
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. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Eagle River AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Eagle River AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Eagle River AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Eagle River AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 contact a few Eagle River AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Eagle River AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Eagle River AK region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Eagle River AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Eagle River AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Eagle River Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Eagle River home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Eagle River Alaska.