How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Course 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Homer homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Homer AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite 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 limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Homer AK is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the profession 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Homer AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Homer AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Homer AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Homer AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Homer AK legal community. 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 Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Homer AK region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost 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 available to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Homer AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Homer AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Homer Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is a vital 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 on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Homer home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Homer Alaska.