How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Nikiski Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Nikiski AK and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Nikiski residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Nikiski AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Nikiski AK is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired 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. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for students 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 certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education 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, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Nikiski AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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. Many Nikiski AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Nikiski AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Nikiski AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Nikiski AK area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Nikiski AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Nikiski AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Nikiski Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate school 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 at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Nikiski residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education 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 ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Nikiski Alaska.