How to Select the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fairbanks AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Fairbanks residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Fairbanks AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, 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 transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, 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 confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Fairbanks AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Fairbanks AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fairbanks AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Fairbanks AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fairbanks AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Fairbanks AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Fairbanks AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Fairbanks AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Fairbanks AK?
If you live near Fairbanks 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.
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska. 2016 estimates put the population of the city proper at 32,751, and the population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough at 97,121, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in Alaska (after Anchorage). The Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses all of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, located 196 driving miles (or 140 air miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the founding campus of the University of Alaska system.
Though, as of yet, there is not a known permanent Alaska Native settlement at the site of Fairbanks, Athabascan peoples have used the area for thousands of years. An archaeological site excavated on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks uncovered a Native camp about 3,500 years old, with older remains found at deeper levels. From evidence gathered at the site, archaeologists surmise that Native activities in the area were limited to seasonal hunting and fishing as fridge temperatures precluded berry gathering . In addition, archeological sites on the grounds of nearby Fort Wainwright date back well over 10,000 years. Arrowheads excavated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks site matched similar items found in Asia, providing some of the first evidence that humans arrived in North America via the Bering Strait land bridge in deep antiquity.
Captain E. T. Barnette founded Fairbanks in August 1901 while headed to Tanacross (or Tanana Crossing, where the Valdez–Eagle trail crossed the Tanana River), where he intended to set up a trading post. The steamboat on which Barnette was a passenger, the Lavelle Young, ran aground while attempting to negotiate shallow water. Barnette, along with his party and supplies, were deposited along the banks of the Chena River 7 miles (11 km) upstream from its confluence with the Tanana River. The sight of smoke from the steamer's engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felice Pedroni (better known as Felix Pedro) and his partner Tom Gilmore. The two met Barnette where he disembarked and convinced him of the potential of the area. Barnette set up his trading post at the site, still intending to eventually make it to Tanacross. Teams of gold prospectors soon congregated in and around the newly founded Fairbanks; they built drift mines, dredges, and lode mines in addition to panning and sluicing.
Paralegal Studies Online Degree Fairbanks AK
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree program is a crucial 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 Paralegal Studies Online Degree. 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 comfort and privacy of your Fairbanks home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fairbanks AK.
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