How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Ketchikan Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ketchikan AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Ketchikan residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Ketchikan AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay 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 very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Ketchikan AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Ketchikan AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Ketchikan AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online 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 also. Many Ketchikan AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Ketchikan AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Ketchikan AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Ketchikan AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools 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 training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Ketchikan AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Ketchikan AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Ketchikan Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Ketchikan home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Ketchikan Alaska.