How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wasilla AK and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Wasilla residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available 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 responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Wasilla AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Wasilla AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose 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 boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Wasilla AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Wasilla AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wasilla AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available 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 contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Wasilla AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Wasilla AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose 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 wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Wasilla AK region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Wasilla AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Wasilla AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Wasilla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal certificate school is an important 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 Wasilla residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wasilla Alaska.