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How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Lakes Alaska

Lakes Alaska female paralegal consulting with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lakes AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Lakes residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Lakes Alaska law library

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Lakes AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday activities may involve:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on related laws and cases
  • Composing correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records

With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, 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. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.

Paralegal Education and Certification

Lakes Alaska male paralegal on phone writing notes

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 educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Lakes AK is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work 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 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 program (we will address 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.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs

Lakes Alaska female student attending online paralegal trainingLegal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Lakes AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Lakes AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Lakes AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.

What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Lakes AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Lakes AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Lakes AK area.

How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Lakes AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Lakes AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Lakes Online Paralegal Training

Choose the Best Lakes Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the right paralegal studies training program 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 Lakes residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lakes Alaska.


 

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