How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Tanaina Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tanaina AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Tanaina homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Tanaina AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting 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 perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 take on 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Tanaina AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive 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. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Tanaina AK students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance 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 might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Tanaina AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized 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 learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Tanaina AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Tanaina AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Tanaina AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Tanaina AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ 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. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Tanaina AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Tanaina AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Tanaina Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Tanaina residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Tanaina Alaska.