How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Juneau AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Juneau homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Juneau AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Juneau AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent 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 obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Juneau AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Juneau AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 some Juneau AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Juneau AK legal field. Ask 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 available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Juneau AK area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Juneau AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Juneau AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Juneau Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Juneau home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Juneau Alaska.