How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Nikiski Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Nikiski AK and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Nikiski residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles 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 help Nikiski AK lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents 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 additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Nikiski AK is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Nikiski AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Nikiski AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Nikiski AK law firms that you may have an interest 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 could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Nikiski AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Nikiski AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Nikiski AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Nikiski AK, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools 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 caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Nikiski AK?
If you live near Nikiski 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.
Nikiski is located at 60°42′28″N 151°15′46″W / 60.70778°N 151.26278°W / 60.70778; -151.26278 (60.707891, -151.262646) on the west side of the Kenai Peninsula. It lies along the shore of Cook Inlet between Salamatof to the south and the Swanson River to the northeast. It is bordered across the Swanson River by the Point Possession CDP.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the Nikiski CDP has a total area of 75.9 square miles (196.7 km2), of which 69.4 square miles (179.8 km2) are land and 6.5 square miles (16.8 km2), or 8.57%, are water. The CDP is in a low-lying region covered by several lakes, including Stormy Lake, Suneva Lake, Daniels Lake, Timberlost Lake, Island Lake, Foreland Lake, Bernice Lake, and Cabin Lake.
Nikiski first appeared on the 1880 U.S. Census as the unincorporated Tinneh villages of "Kultuk" (AKA Nikishka No. 3) and "Titukilsk and Nikishka". Kultuk had a population of 17, and Titukilsk and Nikishka had a population of 57, all of whom were Tinneh Natives. There apparently were no census reports from 1880 until 1980, when the area was organized as "Nikishka" and made a census-designated place (CDP). The name was altered to "Nikiski" in 1990 and has reported as such on each successive census.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Nikiski AK
Selecting the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Nikiski residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program 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, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Nikiski AK.
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