How to Choose the Best Paralegal Course Near Palmer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Palmer AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Palmer residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at 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 basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Palmer AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Palmer AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Palmer AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Palmer AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Palmer AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Palmer AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Palmer AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Palmer AK area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price 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 include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Palmer AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Palmer AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Palmer Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best legal assistant degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Palmer home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds 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 program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Palmer Alaska.