How to Choose the Right Paralegal Program Near Knik Fairview Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Knik Fairview AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Knik Fairview homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Knik Fairview 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 based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Knik Fairview AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Knik Fairview AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training 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 dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible 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 particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, including 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 investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Knik Fairview AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 Knik Fairview AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Knik Fairview AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Knik Fairview AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Knik Fairview AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Knik Fairview AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Knik Fairview Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Knik Fairview residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including 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 career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Knik Fairview Alaska.