How to Select the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Steele Creek Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Steele Creek AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Steele Creek homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have 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 fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Steele Creek AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, 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 firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they 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 lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Steele Creek AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Steele Creek AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Steele Creek AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 significant issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Steele Creek AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 several Steele Creek AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Steele Creek AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Steele Creek AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, 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 also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Steele Creek AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Steele Creek AK, make certain classes are available 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. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Steele Creek Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Steele Creek home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Steele Creek Alaska.