How to Pick the Right Paralegal Training 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 important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive 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 on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Kenai residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Kenai AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume 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 arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Kenai AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Kenai AK students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Kenai AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn 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 as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, 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 Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Kenai AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Kenai AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Kenai AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask 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 large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Kenai AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Kenai AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Kenai AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Kenai Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Kenai Alaska.