How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Eagle River AK and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Eagle River residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, 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 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 specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Eagle River AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained 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 work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits 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.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent 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 earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Eagle River AK area, as well as 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 certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many 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 important issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. 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 as well. A number of Eagle River AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 call a few Eagle River AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Eagle River AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire 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 wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Eagle River AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Eagle River AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Eagle River AK, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Eagle River Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Eagle River residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Eagle River Alaska.