How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kodiak AK and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Kodiak residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Kodiak AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Kodiak AK is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Kodiak AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Kodiak AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 also. A number of Kodiak AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 call some Kodiak AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Kodiak AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of 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, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Kodiak AK region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Kodiak AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Kodiak AK, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Kodiak Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Kodiak home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Kodiak Alaska.