How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program Near Ketchikan Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Ketchikan AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Ketchikan homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess 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 educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles 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 help Ketchikan AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Ketchikan AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Ketchikan AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Ketchikan 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 especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Ketchikan AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as 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 be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Ketchikan AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating 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 probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Ketchikan AK region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Ketchikan AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Ketchikan AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Ketchikan Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Ketchikan home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Ketchikan Alaska.