How to Choose 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 satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Tanaina homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Tanaina AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, 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 could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Tanaina AK is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Tanaina AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure 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 respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Tanaina AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Tanaina AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Tanaina AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Tanaina AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Tanaina AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Tanaina AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only 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, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Tanaina Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tanaina home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to 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 broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Tanaina Alaska.