How to Choose a Paralegal Degree Program near Haines Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Haines AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Haines residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Haines AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready 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 complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Haines AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Haines AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential 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 important aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Haines AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Haines AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Haines AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running 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 assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Haines AK region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Haines AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Haines AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, 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 programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Haines AK?
If you live near Haines 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.
Haines (Tlingit: Deishú) is a census-designated place located in Haines Borough, Alaska, United States. It is in the northern part of the Alaska Panhandle, near Glacier Bay National Park and Preserve.
The area around present-day Haines was called Dtehshuh or "end of the trail" by the Chilkat group of Tlingit. It received this name because they could portage (carry) their canoes from the trail they used to trade with the interior, which began at the outlet of the Chilkat River, to Dtehshuh and save 20 miles (32 km) of rowing around the Chilkat Peninsula.
The first European, George Dickinson, an agent for the North West Trading Company, settled at Dtehshuh in 1879. In 1881, the Chilkat asked Sheldon Jackson to send missionaries to the area. Samuel Hall Young, a Presbyterian minister, was sent. Jackson built the Chilkat Mission and school at Dtehshuh in 1881, on land given to the church by the Chilkat. The Mission was renamed "Haines" in 1884 in honor of Francina E. Haines, the chairwoman of the committee that raised funds for its construction.
Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Haines AK
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Haines home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Haines AK.
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