How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Kodiak Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kodiak AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Kodiak residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just 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 Kodiak AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might 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 lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very 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 paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Kodiak AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions 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 process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Kodiak AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 also. Numerous Kodiak AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 Kodiak AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Kodiak AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great 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 from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Kodiak AK region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Kodiak AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Kodiak AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Kodiak AK?
If you live near Kodiak 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.
Kodiak (Alutiiq: Sun'aq; Russian: Кадьяк, tr. Kadʹyak) is one of seven communities and the main city on Kodiak Island, Kodiak Island Borough, in the U.S. state of Alaska. All commercial transportation between the entire island and the outside world goes through this city either via ferryboat or airline. The population was 6,130 as of the 2010 census. 2014 estimates put the population at 6,304.
After the Alaska Purchase by the United States in 1867, Kodiak became a commercial fishing center which continues to be the mainstay of its economy. A lesser economic influence includes tourism, mainly by those seeking outdoor adventure trips. Salmon, halibut, the unique Kodiak bear, elk, Sitka deer (black tail), and mountain goats attract hunting tourists as well as fishermen to the Kodiak Archipelago. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game maintains an office in the city and a website to help hunters and fishermen obtain the proper permits and learn about the laws specific to the Kodiak area.
The city has four public elementary schools, a middle and high school, as well as a branch of the University of Alaska. An antenna farm at the summit of Pillar Mountain above the city historically provided communication with the outside world before fiber optic cable was run. Transportation to and from the island is provided by ferry service on the Alaska Marine Highway as well as local commercial airlines.
Find the Right Paralegal School near Kodiak AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Kodiak residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Kodiak AK.
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