How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program near Soldotna Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Soldotna AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive 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 educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Soldotna homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Soldotna AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting 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 very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Soldotna AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. 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 community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Soldotna AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of 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 significant aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over 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 final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain 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 demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Soldotna AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 Soldotna AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Soldotna AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Soldotna AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Soldotna AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Soldotna AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Soldotna AK?
If you live near Soldotna Alaska or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
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.
Paralegal Assistant Schools Soldotna AK
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Assistant Schools. But as we have discussed 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 Soldotna home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Soldotna AK.
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