How to Choose the Best Paralegal School Near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Juneau AK and begin 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 need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Juneau homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Juneau AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney'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 stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite 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 restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Juneau AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Juneau AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Juneau AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many 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 important issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Juneau AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 contact a few Juneau AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Juneau AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer 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 hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, 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 important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Juneau AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Juneau AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Juneau AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Juneau Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Juneau residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Juneau Alaska.