How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lakes AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Lakes homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, 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
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Lakes AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys 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 complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Lakes AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at many 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. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain 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 substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Lakes AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain 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 disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Lakes AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 covered, there are other critical factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Lakes AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Lakes AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Lakes AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools 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 sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan 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 all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Lakes AK region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Lakes AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lakes AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Lakes Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training school is a vital first step to guarantee 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 residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lakes Alaska.