How to Find the Best Paralegal Course Near Sitka Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sitka AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Sitka residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Sitka AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing 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 duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Sitka AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Sitka AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training 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 highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Sitka AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Sitka AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Sitka AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer 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 an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Sitka AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help 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 support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Sitka AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Sitka AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Sitka AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Sitka Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Sitka home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Sitka Alaska.