How to Pick the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Haines Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Haines AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Haines residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover 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 selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
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 same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Haines AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep 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 complicated and rather 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 paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Haines AK is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Haines AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Haines AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Haines AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Haines AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Haines AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Haines AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Haines AK, make sure classes are available 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 process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Haines AK?
If you live near Haines 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.
Haines (Tlingit: Deishú) is a census-designated place located in Haines Borough, Alaska, United States. It is in the northern part of the Alaska Panhandle, near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
The area around present-day Haines was called Dtehshuh or "end of the trail" by the Chilkat group of Tlingit. It received this name because they could portage (carry) their canoes from the trail they used to trade with the interior, which began at the outlet of the Chilkat River, to Dtehshuh and save 20 miles (32 km) of rowing around the Chilkat Peninsula.
The first European, George Dickinson, an agent for the North West Trading Company, settled at Dtehshuh in 1879. In 1881, the Chilkat asked Sheldon Jackson to send missionaries to the area. Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian minister, was sent. Jackson built the Chilkat Mission and school at Dtehshuh in 1881, on land given to the church by the Chilkat. The Mission was renamed "Haines" in 1884 in honor of Francina E. Haines, the chairwoman of the committee that raised funds for its construction.
Paralegal Bachelor Degree Schools Haines AK
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Bachelor Degree Schools. But as we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Haines residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection 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 schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Haines AK.
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