How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Kenai AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Kenai residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly 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 fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Kenai AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical 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, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 start your career as a paralegal in Kenai AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover 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 Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Kenai AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced 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 education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Kenai AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if 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 already covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Kenai AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Kenai AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Kenai AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Kenai AK region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Kenai AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Kenai AK, make certain 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, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Kenai Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Kenai residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Kenai Alaska.