How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies 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 gratifying 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 probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Knik Fairview homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options 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 positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Knik Fairview AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, 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 are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable 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, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 means to begin your career as a paralegal in Knik Fairview AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Knik Fairview AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
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 because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Knik Fairview AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if 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 previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider as well, 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 properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Knik Fairview AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Knik Fairview AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise 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 schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Knik Fairview AK area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Knik Fairview AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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 sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Knik Fairview Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Knik Fairview home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Knik Fairview Alaska.