How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Knik Fairview Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Knik Fairview AK and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive 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 increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Knik Fairview homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Knik Fairview AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Knik Fairview AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 discuss 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Knik Fairview AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Knik Fairview AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to think about also, such as 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 programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may 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 training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Knik Fairview 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 obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Knik Fairview AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Knik Fairview AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Knik Fairview AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Knik Fairview AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Knik Fairview AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Knik Fairview Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal certificate program is an essential 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 at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Knik Fairview home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Knik Fairview Alaska.