How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Eagle River Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Eagle River AK and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal 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 more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Eagle River homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to 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
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Eagle River AK lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Eagle River AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained 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 practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Eagle River AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Eagle River AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 Eagle River AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Eagle River AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work 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 receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those schools that are within the Eagle River AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Eagle River AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Eagle River 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 enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Eagle River AK?
If you live near Eagle River 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.
Eagle River, Anchorage
Eagle River is a community within the Municipality of Anchorage situated on the Eagle River for which it is named, between Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Chugach State Park in the Chugach Mountains. Its ZIP code is 99577. If Eagle River were not part of the Municipality of Anchorage, it would be classified as one of the five largest cities in Alaska.
The name Eagle River was first reported in 1939 by the U.S. Geological Survey. The Eagle River/Chugiak area was settled by homesteaders and prospered on agricultural activities. The Eagle River post office was established in 1961.
In spite of some local opposition, both Chugiak and Eagle River became annexed to the Municipality of Anchorage, when the City of Anchorage and the Greater Anchorage Area Borough were unified in 1975. Efforts to secede from the Municipality surfaced around 2000, but are no longer prominent as the community has seen an influx of individuals who have social and economic ties to Anchorage and the nearby Joint Base Elmendorf–Richardson.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training near Eagle River AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Eagle River residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Eagle River AK.
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