How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Nikiski Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Nikiski AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Nikiski homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Nikiski AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed 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 functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Nikiski AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 cover the benefits 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Nikiski AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Nikiski AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most 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 crucial aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Nikiski AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Nikiski AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Nikiski AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Nikiski AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Nikiski AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Nikiski AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Nikiski Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Nikiski home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Nikiski Alaska.