How to Select the Right Paralegal Course Near Gateway Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gateway AK and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Gateway homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. 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 before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Gateway AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Gateway AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Gateway AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Gateway AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 significant issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Gateway AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 Gateway AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Gateway AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. 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 indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable 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 wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Gateway AK region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Gateway AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Gateway AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Gateway Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed 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 Gateway residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gateway Alaska.