How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Ketchikan Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Ketchikan AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Ketchikan residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Ketchikan AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Ketchikan AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn 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 substantiate you as a professional also. 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 school (we will discuss 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Ketchikan AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Ketchikan AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Ketchikan AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Ketchikan AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Ketchikan AK area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Ketchikan AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Ketchikan AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online 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 program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Ketchikan AK?
If you live near Ketchikan 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.
Ketchikan (/ˈkɛtʃɪkæn/ KETCH-ih-kan;Tlingit: Kichx̱áan) is a city in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, Alaska, United States, the southeasternmost city in Alaska. With a population at the 2010 census of 8,050, it is the fifth-most populous city in the state, and tenth-most populous community when census-designated places are included. The surrounding borough, encompassing suburbs both north and south of the city along the Tongass Highway (most of which are commonly regarded as a part of Ketchikan, albeit not a part of the city itself), plus small rural settlements accessible mostly by water, registered a population of 13,477 in that same census. Estimates put the 2017 population at 13,754 people. Incorporated on August 25, 1900, Ketchikan is the earliest extant incorporated city in Alaska, because consolidation or unification elsewhere in Alaska resulted in dissolution of those communities' city governments. Ketchikan is located on Revillagigedo Island, so named in 1793 by Captain George Vancouver.
Ketchikan is named after Ketchikan Creek, which flows through the town, emptying into the Tongass Narrows a short distance southeast of its downtown. "Ketchikan" comes from the Tlingit name for the creek, Kitschk-hin, the meaning of which is unclear. It may mean "the river belonging to Kitschk"; other accounts claim it means "Thundering Wings of an Eagle". In modern Tlingit this name is rendered as Kichx̱áan.
Ketchikan Creek served as a summer fish camp for Tlingit natives for untold years before the town was established by Mike Martin in 1885. He was sent to the area by an Oregon canning company to assess prospects. He established the saltery Clark & Martin and a general store with Nova Scotia native George Clark who had been foreman at a cannery that burned down.
Find the Best Paralegal Training near Ketchikan AK
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Ketchikan residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Ketchikan AK.
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