How to Choose the Right Paralegal Course Near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Meadow Lakes AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive 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 educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Meadow Lakes homes. Of those choices, they try to find 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 must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Meadow 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 practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Meadow Lakes AK is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, 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 boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Meadow Lakes AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure 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 organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Meadow Lakes AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
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 can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Meadow Lakes AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Meadow Lakes AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Meadow Lakes AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Meadow Lakes AK area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Meadow Lakes AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Meadow Lakes AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Meadow Lakes Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Meadow Lakes residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed 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 be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Meadow Lakes Alaska.