How to Pick the Right Paralegal Training 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 fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require 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 educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Tanaina homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Tanaina AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Tanaina AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Tanaina AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain 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 degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Tanaina AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Tanaina AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Tanaina AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may 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 enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tanaina AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign 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 vary among states, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Tanaina AK area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Tanaina AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Tanaina AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Tanaina Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tanaina home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Tanaina Alaska.