How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lakes AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, 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. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Lakes homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals 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 particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties 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, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Lakes AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Lakes AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Lakes AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, 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 researching 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 reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, 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 legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 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 rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Lakes AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Lakes AK area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see 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, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Lakes AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Lakes Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best legal assistant training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lakes Alaska.