How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program near Anchorage Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Anchorage AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Anchorage homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices 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 responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Anchorage AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals 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 lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Anchorage AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Anchorage AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to consider as well, 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Anchorage AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent 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 contact a few Anchorage AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Anchorage AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. 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 an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Anchorage AK region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Anchorage AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Anchorage AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Anchorage AK?
If you live near Anchorage Alaska or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Anchorage (officially called the Municipality of Anchorage; Dena'ina: Dgheyaytnu) is a unified home rule municipality in the U.S. state of Alaska, located in the West Coast of the United States. With an estimated 291,538 residents in 2018, it is Alaska's most populous city and contains more than 40 percent of the state's total population; among the 50 states, only New York has a higher percentage of residents who live in its most populous city. All together, the Anchorage metropolitan area, which combines Anchorage with the neighboring Matanuska-Susitna Borough, had a population of 399,148 in 2018, which accounts for more than half of the state's population. At 1,706 square miles of land area, the city is the fourth largest city by land in the United States and larger than the smallest state, Rhode Island, at 1,212 square miles.
Anchorage is in the south-central portion of Alaska, at the terminus of the Cook Inlet, on a peninsula formed by the Knik Arm to the north and the Turnagain Arm to the south. The city limits span 1,961.1 square miles (5,079.2 km2) which encompass the urban core, a joint military base, several outlying communities and almost all of Chugach State Park.
Due to its location, almost equidistant from New York City, Frankfurt, and Tokyo, Anchorage lies within 9 1⁄2 hours by air of nearly 90% of the industrialized world. For this reason, the Anchorage International Airport is a common refueling stop for many international cargo flights and home to a major FedEx hub, which the company calls a "critical part" of its global network of services.
Online School For Paralegal Anchorage AK
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Online School For Paralegal. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Anchorage residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anchorage AK.
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