How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Homer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Homer AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Homer homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. 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.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Homer AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents 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 counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Homer AK is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory 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 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Homer AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Homer AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. 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. Numerous Homer AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 Homer AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Homer AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community 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 may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Homer AK region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary 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 supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Homer AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Homer AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Homer Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, 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 academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Homer Alaska.