How to Select a Paralegal Training Program near Soldotna Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Soldotna AK and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Soldotna homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Soldotna AK lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, 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 basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Soldotna AK is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Soldotna AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization 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 focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Soldotna AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Soldotna AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Soldotna AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Soldotna AK area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget 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 expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Soldotna AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Soldotna AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Soldotna AK?
If you live near Soldotna 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.
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.
In 1947, after World War II, the United States government withdrew a number of townships along Cook Inlet and the lower Kenai River from the Kenai National Moose Range, opening up the area to settlement under the Homestead Act. Veterans of the United States armed services were given a 90-day preference over non-veterans in selecting land and filing for property. Also in that year, the Sterling Highway right-of-way was cleared of trees from Cooper Landing to Kenai. The location of present-day Soldotna was selected as the site for the highway's bridge crossing the Kenai River.
Select the Right Legal Assistant College near Soldotna AK
Selecting the ideal paralegal training 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 choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Soldotna home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Soldotna AK.
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