How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Steele Creek Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Steele Creek AK and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Steele Creek homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Steele Creek AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. 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 they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Steele Creek AK is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can 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 an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn 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. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools 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 continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Steele Creek AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Steele Creek AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Steele Creek AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Steele Creek AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Steele Creek AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Steele Creek AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Steele Creek AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Steele Creek Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Steele Creek home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Steele Creek Alaska.