How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Juneau AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Juneau homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Juneau AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents 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 duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially 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 quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Juneau AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Juneau AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Juneau AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective 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 think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation 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 effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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. Numerous Juneau AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Juneau AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Juneau AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. 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 consider those colleges that are within the Juneau AK region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible 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 Juneau AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Juneau AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Juneau Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Juneau residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational 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 broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Juneau Alaska.