How to Find the Best Paralegal Program Near Meadow Lakes Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Meadow Lakes AK and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Meadow Lakes residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take 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 for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Meadow Lakes AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Meadow Lakes AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. 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 many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 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 initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Meadow Lakes AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Meadow Lakes AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over 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 ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Meadow Lakes AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. 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 caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Meadow Lakes AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Meadow Lakes AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high 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 highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those schools that are within the Meadow Lakes AK area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 aid might be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Meadow Lakes AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just 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, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Meadow Lakes Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant training school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Meadow Lakes residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Meadow Lakes Alaska.