How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kenai AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Kenai residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable 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 belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Kenai 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 relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Kenai AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Kenai AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced 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 obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Kenai AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Kenai AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 Kenai AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Kenai AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Kenai AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Kenai AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Kenai AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Kenai Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Kenai residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Kenai Alaska.