How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kodiak AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Kodiak residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Kodiak AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, 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 practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Kodiak AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at many 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 earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the profession 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 two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Kodiak AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, 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 receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program 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 earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding 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 Kodiak AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to research as well, 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 schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Kodiak AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Kodiak AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Kodiak AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Kodiak AK region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Kodiak AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Kodiak 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 choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Kodiak Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Kodiak home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior 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 profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Kodiak Alaska.