How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wasilla AK and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, 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 numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Wasilla homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Wasilla AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Wasilla AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Wasilla AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least 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 highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Wasilla AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Wasilla AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Wasilla AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Wasilla AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools 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 provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local 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, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Wasilla AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Wasilla AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Wasilla AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Wasilla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best legal assistant training school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Wasilla home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Wasilla Alaska.