How to Select the Best Paralegal Degree 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 fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Wasilla homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are 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 as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Wasilla AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files 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 mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Wasilla AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Wasilla AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing 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 environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Wasilla AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many 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 important issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Wasilla AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying 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 determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Wasilla AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Wasilla AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. 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 consider those colleges that are within the Wasilla AK region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Wasilla AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining 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. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Wasilla Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wasilla residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior 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 prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Wasilla Alaska.