How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Homer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Homer AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Homer residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives 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 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 help Homer AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay 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 involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical 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 have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Homer AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Homer AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Homer AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 crucial issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Homer AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Homer AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Homer AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Homer AK region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Homer AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Homer AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Homer Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Homer residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Homer Alaska.