How to Pick the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Nikiski Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Nikiski AK and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives 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 range of their Nikiski residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take 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
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Nikiski AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Nikiski AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Nikiski AK students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because 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 find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, 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 education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Nikiski AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school 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 confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Nikiski AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Nikiski AK legal community. 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 after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial 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 among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Nikiski AK region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Nikiski AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Nikiski AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Nikiski Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Nikiski residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Nikiski Alaska.