How to Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wasilla AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Wasilla homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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 functions, 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Wasilla AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. 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 action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs 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 educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Wasilla AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Wasilla AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Wasilla AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Wasilla AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Wasilla AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Wasilla AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Wasilla AK region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Wasilla AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Wasilla AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Wasilla Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed 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 Wasilla residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wasilla Alaska.