How to Select the Best Paralegal Course Near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kenai AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. 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 being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Kenai homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered as well. 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 before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 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 functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Kenai AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Kenai AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Kenai AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to 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 usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Kenai AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Kenai AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area 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 look at those colleges that are within the Kenai AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Kenai AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Kenai AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Kenai Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies certificate program 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 comfort and privacy of your Kenai residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Kenai Alaska.