How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Meadow Lakes AK and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Meadow Lakes residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Meadow Lakes AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice 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. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Meadow Lakes AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Meadow Lakes AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive 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 instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Meadow Lakes AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Meadow Lakes AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Meadow Lakes AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, 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 firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Meadow Lakes AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Meadow Lakes AK area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Meadow Lakes AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need 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. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Meadow Lakes Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step to guarantee 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 education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Meadow Lakes Alaska.