How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Kenai AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Kenai homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary 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 need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take 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 essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Kenai AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 Certificates and Degrees 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 academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Kenai AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning 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 Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Kenai AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Kenai AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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. A number of Kenai AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Kenai AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Kenai AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. 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 a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish 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 might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Kenai AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Kenai AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Kenai 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 makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Kenai Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Kenai home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Kenai Alaska.