How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Ketchikan Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ketchikan AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Ketchikan residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Ketchikan AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Ketchikan AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Ketchikan AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into 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 environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Ketchikan AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential 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 significant issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Ketchikan AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants 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 Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Ketchikan AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Ketchikan AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication 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 School's Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those colleges that are within the Ketchikan AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Ketchikan AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Ketchikan AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Ketchikan Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies degree school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Ketchikan home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Ketchikan Alaska.