How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Steele Creek Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Steele Creek AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Steele Creek residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as 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 variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited 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 since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Steele Creek AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages 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 Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Steele Creek AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education 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 highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Steele Creek AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to consider as well, such as 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 effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected 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 certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Steele Creek AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided 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 firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer 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 present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Steele Creek AK legal community. Ask 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 Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. 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 investigate those schools that are within the Steele Creek AK region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Steele Creek AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Steele Creek AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Steele Creek Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal certificate program is a crucial 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 privacy and comfort of your Steele Creek home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that 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 no matter 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 review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Steele Creek Alaska.