How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Steele Creek Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Steele Creek AK and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Steele Creek homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Steele Creek 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 functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers 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 complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Steele Creek AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Steele Creek AK students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Steele Creek AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Steele Creek AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Steele Creek AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Steele Creek AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps 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 attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Steele Creek AK region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Steele Creek AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Steele Creek AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Steele Creek Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Steele Creek residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance 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 program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Steele Creek Alaska.