How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Girdwood Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Girdwood AK and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Girdwood homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Girdwood AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel 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. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Girdwood AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Girdwood AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation 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 final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Girdwood AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Girdwood AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Girdwood AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Girdwood AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Girdwood AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Girdwood AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs 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 quality. 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 attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Girdwood AK?
If you live near Girdwood 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.
Girdwood is a resort town within the southern extent of the Municipality of Anchorage in the state of Alaska. Located near the end of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, Girdwood lies in a valley in the southwestern Chugach Mountains, surrounded by seven glaciers feeding into a number of creeks, which either converge within the valley or empty directly into the arm. Girdwood is typically accessed by the Seward Highway (Milepost 90), with the main line of the Alaska Railroad paralleling the highway. By road distance, most of the community lies within 35 to 40 miles (56 to 64 km) of downtown Anchorage. According to 2014 estimates, a little under 2,000 people live in the valley.
Founded as a community to supply miners during the Turnagain Arm gold rushes of the 1890s, Girdwood was mostly a small, quiet place until the middle of the 20th century. Two events drastically altered that. The first was the establishment of Alyeska Resort along the slopes of Mount Alyeska, which became an international destination coincidental with Anchorage's civic promotion of itself as "The Air Crossroads of the World". The second was the 1964 earthquake, which devastated the original townsite located directly along the arm. Following the earthquake, most of the town moved further up the valley to a new townsite, though a few homes remained and a strip mall was later constructed along the Seward Highway. Historically dominated in the years since the resort's opening by seasonally-occupied vacation homes and seasonal activity at the resort, the opening of the Alyeska Prince Hotel during the 1990s has shifted the resort, and hence Girdwood as a whole, more towards year-round activity and a year-round economy. This has led to periodic debates about community growth and affordability of housing for resort workers, many of whom over the years have resorted to camping illegally on public lands.
Girdwood still revolves heavily around seasonal activity, with skiing and snowboarding at Alyeska Resort bringing visitors and their money into the community. Summer activities are also popular, which include hiking, fishing and rafting. The Girdwood Forest Fair, held every July, is the community's most significant visitor attraction apart from resort-related activities. Girdwood is located within the northernmost extent of rain forest on Earth, and also serves as the closest point of access to Chugach National Forest from Anchorage proper.
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Girdwood AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Girdwood home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Girdwood AK.
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