How to Find the Best Paralegal Program Near Sterling Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sterling AK and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, 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 numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Sterling residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic 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 fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Sterling AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, 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 wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing 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 preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training 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 means to start your career as a paralegal in Sterling AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. 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 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though 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. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Sterling AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Sterling AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Sterling AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Sterling 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 rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Sterling AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Sterling AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Sterling AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Sterling AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Sterling Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered 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 Sterling residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Sterling Alaska.