How to Select a Paralegal School near North Pole Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near North Pole AK and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their North Pole residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist North Pole AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents 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 duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, 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 confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in North Pole AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired 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 work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the North Pole AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider 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 programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous North Pole AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent 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 several North Pole AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear 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 School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the North Pole AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering 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 programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work 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 receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the North Pole AK region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in North Pole AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near North Pole AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near North Pole AK?
If you live near North Pole 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.
North Pole, Alaska
North Pole is a small city in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, United States. It is part of the Fairbanks, Alaska metropolitan statistical area. As of the 2016 United States Census, the city had a population of 2,232, up from 1,570 in 2000.
The name "North Pole" is often applied to the entire area covered by its zip code, 99705. This area stretches between Fort Wainwright and Eielson Air Force Base, and between the Chena River and the Tanana River, including subdivisions off of Badger Road, a loop road connecting the eastern edge of Fairbanks city limits with North Pole city limits, and in the nearby census-designated place of Moose Creek. Despite the name, the city is about 1,700 miles (2,700 km) south of Earth's geographic North Pole and 125 miles (200 km) south of the Arctic Circle.
The city is a summertime attraction for tourists visiting nearby Fairbanks and, due to its location on the Richardson Highway, those traveling to and from the Alaska Highway and Valdez. North Pole was home to two oil refineries, the town's major industry aside from tourism, but closed because of sulofane contamination in ground water. The larger refinery, operated by Flint Hills Resources, was a major source of jet fuel for Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. Tanker car traffic on the Alaska Railroad, entering and leaving the refinery, frequently bisects the city.
Select the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near North Pole AK
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your North Pole home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose 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 school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in North Pole AK.
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