How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Homer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Homer AK and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Homer residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Homer AK with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Homer AK paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Homer AK as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Homer AK.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for those in Homer AK searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Homer AK area schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Homer AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Homer AK paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Homer AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within your Homer AK local region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount 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 also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Homer AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Homer AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Homer AK?
Homer is a city in Kenai Peninsula Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is 218 miles southwest of Anchorage. According to the 2010 Census, the population is 5,003, up from 3,946 in 2000. Long known as The "Halibut Fishing Capital of the World." Homer is also nicknamed "the end of the road," and more recently, "the cosmic hamlet by the sea."
Homer is on the shore of Kachemak Bay on the southwest side of the Kenai Peninsula. Its distinguishing feature is the Homer Spit, a narrow 4.5 mi (7.2 km)) long gravel bar that extends into the bay, on which is located the Homer Harbor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 22.4 square miles (58 km2), of which 10.6 square miles (27 km2) is land and 11.9 square miles (31 km2) is water. The total area is 52.83% water.
As with much of South Central Alaska, Homer has a moderate subarctic coastal climate (Köppen Dsc) which causes its weather to be moderate compared to interior Alaska. Winters are snowy and long but not particularly cold, considering the latitude, with the average January high only slightly below freezing. Snow averages 50 inches (127 cm) per season, falling primarily from November through March, with some accumulation in October and April, and rarely in May. Homer receives only about 25 inches of rainfall annually due to the influence of the Chugach Mountains to the southeast which shelter it from the Gulf of Alaska. There are 7 nights of sub-0 °F (−18 °C) lows annually, and the area straddles the border between USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5B and 6A, indicating an average annual minimum of around −10 °F (−23 °C). Summers are cool due to the marine influence, with 75 °F (24 °C) highs or 55 °F (13 °C) lows being extremely rare. Extreme temperatures have ranged from −24 °F (−31 °C) on January 28–29, 1989 up to 84 °F (29 °C) on July 22, 2011.
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Homer AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Homer home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Homer AK.
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