How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Degree 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 satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Nikiski homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Nikiski AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Nikiski AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Nikiski AK students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Nikiski AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Nikiski AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Nikiski AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Nikiski AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Nikiski AK region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Nikiski AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Nikiski AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Nikiski Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Nikiski residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Nikiski Alaska.