How to Choose the Best Paralegal Program Near Homer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Homer AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Homer homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Homer AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements 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 as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Homer AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Homer AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Homer AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Homer AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Homer AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Homer AK region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. 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 reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Homer AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Homer AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Homer Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Homer home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Homer Alaska.