How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or 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 essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Steele Creek homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Steele Creek AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role 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 confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Steele Creek AK is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Steele Creek AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Steele Creek AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Steele Creek AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, 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. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Steele Creek AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Steele Creek AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs 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 provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask 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 indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, 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 receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Steele Creek AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Steele Creek AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend 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 enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Steele Creek Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Steele Creek home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Steele Creek Alaska.