How to Pick the Best Paralegal Program Near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Kodiak AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Kodiak homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Kodiak AK attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Kodiak AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Kodiak AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Kodiak AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include 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 previously covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Kodiak AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Kodiak AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Kodiak AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically 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 graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools 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 highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Kodiak AK region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost 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 add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Kodiak AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Kodiak AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Kodiak Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies degree school is an important 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 at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Kodiak home. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Kodiak Alaska.