How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Meadow Lakes AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial 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 increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Meadow Lakes residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Meadow Lakes AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Meadow Lakes AK is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Meadow Lakes AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available 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 so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify 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 also. Numerous Meadow Lakes AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Meadow Lakes AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though 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 give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Meadow Lakes AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Meadow Lakes AK region.
What is the Entire Cost? 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. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Meadow Lakes AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Meadow Lakes AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Meadow Lakes Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding 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 Meadow Lakes home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Meadow Lakes Alaska.