How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fairbanks AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Fairbanks residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Fairbanks AK attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 legal assistant in Fairbanks AK is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the advantages 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.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Fairbanks AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Fairbanks AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing 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 Fairbanks AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fairbanks AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive 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 live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Fairbanks AK area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Fairbanks AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fairbanks AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fairbanks AK?
If you live near Fairbanks 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.
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska. 2016 estimates put the population of the city proper at 32,751, and the population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough at 97,121, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in Alaska (after Anchorage). The Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses all of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, located 196 driving miles (or 140 air miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the founding campus of the University of Alaska system.
Though, as of yet, there is not a known permanent Alaska Native settlement at the site of Fairbanks, Athabascan peoples have used the area for thousands of years. An archaeological site excavated on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks uncovered a Native camp about 3,500 years old, with older remains found at deeper levels. From evidence gathered at the site,archaeologists surmise that Native activities in the area were limited to seasonal hunting and fishing as fridge temperatures precluded berry gathering . In addition, archeological sites on the grounds of nearby Fort Wainwright date back well over 10,000 years. Arrowheads excavated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks site matched similar items found in Asia, providing some of the first evidence that humans arrived in North America via the Bering Strait land bridge in deep antiquity.
Captain E. T. Barnette founded Fairbanks in August 1901 while headed to Tanacross (or Tanana Crossing, where the Valdez–Eagle trail crossed the Tanana River), where he intended to set up a trading post. The steamboat on which Barnette was a passenger, the Lavelle Young, ran aground while attempting to negotiate shallow water. Barnette, along with his party and supplies, were deposited along the banks of the Chena River 7 miles (11 km) upstream from its confluence with the Tanana River. The sight of smoke from the steamer's engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felice Pedroni (better known as Felix Pedro) and his partner Tom Gilmore. The two met Barnette where he disembarked and convinced him of the potential of the area. Barnette set up his trading post at the site, still intending to eventually make it to Tanacross. Teams of gold prospectors soon congregated in and around the newly founded Fairbanks; they built drift mines, dredges, and lode mines in addition to panning and sluicing.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant Degree Program near Fairbanks AK
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 Fairbanks residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fairbanks AK.
Other Alaska Locations That May Be Of Interest
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