How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Kenai Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kenai AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Kenai homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Kenai AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice 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. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Kenai AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Kenai AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Kenai AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select 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 contact several Kenai AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Kenai AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local 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 go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Kenai AK region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Kenai AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Kenai AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Kenai AK?
If you live near Kenai 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.
Kenai (/ˈkiːnaɪ/, KEY-nigh) (Dena'ina: Shk'ituk't) is a city in the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. The population was 7,100 as of the 2010 census, up from 6,942 in 2000.
The city of Kenai is named after the local Dena'ina (Tanaina) word 'ken' or 'kena', which means 'flat, meadow, open area with few trees; base, low ridge', according to the Dena'ina Topical Dictionary by James Kari, Ph.D., published in 2007. This describes the area along the mouth and portion of the Kenai River near the City of Kenai. Archaeological evidence suggests that the area was first occupied by the Kachemak people from 1000 B.C., until they were displaced by the Dena'ina Athabaskan people around 1000 A.D. Before the arrival of the Russians, Kenai was a Dena'ina village called Shk'ituk't, meaning "where we slide down." When Russian fur traders first arrived in 1741, about 1,000 Dena'ina lived in the village. The traders called the people "Kenaitze", which is a Russian term for "people of the flats", or "Kenai people". This name was later adopted when they were incorporated as the Kenaitze Indian Tribe in the early 1970s.
In 1786 Pytor Zaikov built Fort Nikolaevskaia for the Lebedev-Lastochkin Company on the site of modern Kenai, being the first European settlement on the Alaskan mainland. Hostilities surfaced between the natives and settlers in 1797, culminating in an incident in which the Dena'ina attacked Fort St. Nicholas, later dubbed the battle of Kenai. Over one hundred deaths occurred from all involved parties. Later, in 1838, the introduction of smallpox killed one half of the Dena'ina population.
Find the Best Legal Assistant Training near Kenai AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Kenai residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Kenai AK.
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