How to Choose the Right Paralegal School Near Knik Fairview Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Knik Fairview AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Knik Fairview residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later 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 instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Knik Fairview AK attorneys with a wide variety 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 legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, 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 level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Knik Fairview AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Knik Fairview AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Knik Fairview AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Knik Fairview AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Knik Fairview AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Knik Fairview AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Knik Fairview AK area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Knik Fairview AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Knik Fairview AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Knik Fairview Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Knik Fairview residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide 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 final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Knik Fairview Alaska.