How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Homer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Homer AK and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Homer homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable 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 are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Homer AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting 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 managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, 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 administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 means to start your career as a paralegal in Homer AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Homer AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Homer AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Homer AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Homer AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through 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 require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Homer AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Homer AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Homer AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Homer AK?
If you live near Homer AK or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Homer is a city in Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is 218 miles southwest of Anchorage. According to the 2010 Census, the population is 5,003, up from 3,946 in 2000. Long known as The "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World." Homer is also nicknamed "the end of the road," and more recently, "the cosmic hamlet by the sea."
Homer is on the shore of Kachemak Bay on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its distinguishing feature is the Homer Spit, a narrow 4.5 mi (7.2 km)) long gravel bar that extends into the bay, on which is located the Homer Harbor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 22.4 square miles (58 km2), of which 10.6 square miles (27 km2) is land and 11.9 square miles (31 km2) is water. The total area is 52.83% water.
Choose the Best Paralegal School near Homer AK
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 privacy and comfort of your Homer home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Homer AK.
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