How to Choose the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Juneau AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Juneau residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Juneau AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Juneau AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Juneau AK students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Juneau AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
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 may also obtain 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 get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Juneau AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good 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 several Juneau AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer 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 present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Juneau AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting 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. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. 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 might want to first consider those schools that are within the Juneau AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Juneau AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Juneau AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Juneau Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Juneau residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Juneau Alaska.