How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate 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 satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Homer residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Homer AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 discuss 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Homer AK students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Homer AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering 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 choose need to be accredited by a recognized 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Homer AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Homer AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Homer AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Homer AK region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Homer AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely 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 program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Homer Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate program is an important 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 comfort and privacy of your Homer residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Homer Alaska.