How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Seward Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Seward AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require 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 alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Seward residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Seward AK lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 Seward AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Seward AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Seward AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 Seward AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Seward AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire 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 need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Seward AK area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Seward AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Seward AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Seward AK?
If you live near Seward 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.
Seward (Alutiiq: Qutalleq) is an incorporated home rule city in Alaska, United States. Located on Resurrection Bay, a fjord of the Gulf of Alaska on the Kenai Peninsula, Seward is situated on Alaska's southern coast, approximately 120 miles by road from Alaska's largest city, Anchorage, and nearly 1,300 miles from the closest point in the contiguous United States at Cape Flattery, Washington.
With an estimated permanent population of 2,831 people as of 2017, Seward is the fourth-largest city in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, behind Kenai, Homer, and the borough seat of Soldotna. The city is named for former U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, who orchestrated the United States' purchase of Alaska from the Russian Empire in 1867 while serving in this position as part of President Andrew Johnson's administration.
Seward is the southern terminus of the Alaska Railroad and the historic starting point of the original Iditarod Trail to the Alaskan interior, with Mile 0 of the trail marked on the shoreline at the southern end of town.
Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Seward AK
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Seward home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Seward AK.
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