How to Choose the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wasilla AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Wasilla residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Wasilla AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Wasilla AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the field 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Wasilla AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Wasilla AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many 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 important factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Wasilla AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Wasilla AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Wasilla AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Wasilla AK region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Wasilla AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wasilla AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Wasilla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Wasilla residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, 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 career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, 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 certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wasilla Alaska.