How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Soldotna Alaska
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Soldotna AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Soldotna homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn a paralegal certificate or degree.
Alaska Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Soldotna AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’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 noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for Soldotna AK attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 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 earned at many Soldotna AK area community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited Soldotna AK area school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common in Soldotna AK and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at Soldotna AK area community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school 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 can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Soldotna AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Alaska legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since Soldotna AK employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other Soldotna AK legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Soldotna AK legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring Soldotna AK legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within your local area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Soldotna AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Soldotna AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Soldotna AK
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Soldotna residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Soldotna AK.
More About Soldotna Alaska
Soldotna is a home rule city in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. At the 2010 census the population was 4,163, up from 3,759 in 2000. It is the seat of the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Soldotna is located in the Southcentral portion of Alaska on the central-western portion of the Kenai Peninsula. The city limits span 7 square miles along the Kenai River, which empties into the Cook Inlet in the nearby city of Kenai. The Kenai River was selected by CNN Travel as one of the "World's 15 Best Rivers for Travelers," due to its fishing and hunting opportunities. Soldotna is located on the western edge of the vast Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, a protected area spanning nearly 2 million acres and home to bears, moose, caribou, sheep, and many fish and bird species.
The city is located at the junction of the Sterling Highway and the Kenai Spur Highway, which has enabled Soldotna to develop as a service and retail hub for the Central Peninsula as well as for travelers between Anchorage and Homer. The Central Peninsula Hospital serves the medical needs of the region's residents and tourists. The Kenai Peninsula College, a branch of the University of Alaska Anchorage, operates the Kenai River Campus in Soldotna. Additionally, the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the Kenai Peninsula Borough, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District are located in the city.
In 1947, after World War II, the United States government withdrew a number of townships along Cook Inlet and the lower Kenai River from the Kenai National Moose Range, opening up the area to settlement under the Homestead Act. Veterans of the United States armed services were given a 90-day preference over non-veterans in selecting land and filing for property. Also in that year, the Sterling Highway right-of-way was cleared of trees from Cooper Landing to Kenai. The location of present-day Soldotna was selected as the site for the highway's bridge crossing the Kenai River.
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