How to Select the Right Paralegal 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 career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Ketchikan residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Ketchikan AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring 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 conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. 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 limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 begin your career as a paralegal in Ketchikan AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Ketchikan AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Ketchikan AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential 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 aspects to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Ketchikan AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Ketchikan AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Ketchikan AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first 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. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Ketchikan AK region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Ketchikan AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Ketchikan AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Ketchikan Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Ketchikan residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Ketchikan Alaska.