How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Palmer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Palmer AK and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Palmer residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Palmer AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 paralegal in Palmer AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Palmer AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected 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 may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Palmer 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 especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Palmer AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Palmer AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Palmer AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Palmer AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Palmer AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Palmer AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Palmer Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 privacy and comfort of your Palmer home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Palmer Alaska.