How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lakes AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Lakes residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Lakes AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Lakes AK is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Lakes AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting 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 quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as 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 Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Lakes AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can 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 previously covered, there are other important issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Lakes AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research 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 profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Lakes AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Lakes AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Lakes AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Lakes AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Lakes AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Lakes Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal training school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lakes home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different types 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 selection of a paralegal program 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, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Lakes Alaska.