How to Pick the Best Paralegal 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 gratifying 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 achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Nikiski residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at 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 basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Nikiski AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more applicable 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Nikiski AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Nikiski AK students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Nikiski AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Nikiski AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Nikiski AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Nikiski AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Nikiski AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Nikiski AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Nikiski AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Nikiski Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Nikiski home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Nikiski Alaska.