How to Pick a Paralegal Studies 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. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, 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 begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Anchorage residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Anchorage AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites 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 require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice 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 regarded 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Anchorage AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Anchorage AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished 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 offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Anchorage AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Anchorage AK region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Anchorage AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Anchorage AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools 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 caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Anchorage AK?
If you live near Anchorage AK or perhaps you 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. With an estimated 298,192 residents in 2016, 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 401,635 in 2016, 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.
Find the Right Legal Assistant School near Anchorage AK
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Anchorage residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive 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 training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Anchorage AK.
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