How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lakes AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Lakes homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need 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 exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Lakes AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Lakes AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Lakes AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Lakes AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lakes AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 some Lakes AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Lakes AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out 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 substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Lakes AK region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Lakes AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lakes AK, make sure 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 procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Lakes Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training school is an important 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 at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lakes residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lakes Alaska.