How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Ketchikan Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Ketchikan AK and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Ketchikan residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable 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 are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Ketchikan AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Ketchikan AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Ketchikan AK students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Ketchikan AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 discussed, there are other critical issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Ketchikan AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Ketchikan AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Ketchikan AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Ketchikan AK area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Ketchikan AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Ketchikan AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Ketchikan Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant training program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 comfort and privacy of your Ketchikan residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Ketchikan Alaska.