How to Select a Paralegal College near Soldotna Alaska
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Soldotna AK and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need 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. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Soldotna homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Soldotna AK with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a Soldotna AK paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career in Soldotna AK as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Soldotna AK.
Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good option for students in Soldotna AK searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Soldotna AK area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Soldotna AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Soldotna AK paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing 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 law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Soldotna AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within your Soldotna AK local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Soldotna AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Soldotna AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Soldotna AK?
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.
The construction of the Sterling Highway provided a link from the Soldotna area to the outside world. More homesteads were taken and visitors came to fish in the area. The Soldotna Post Office opened in 1949 and other businesses opened in the next few years.
Choose the Best Paralegal School near Soldotna AK
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Soldotna residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Soldotna AK.
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