How to Find a Paralegal Program near Juneau Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Juneau AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Juneau homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Juneau AK lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Juneau AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired 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 may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Juneau AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. 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 as well. Many Juneau AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Juneau AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Juneau AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Juneau AK region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Juneau AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Juneau 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 provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Juneau AK?
If you live near Juneau 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.
The City and Borough of Juneau (/ˈdʒuːnoʊ/ JOO-noh; Tlingit: Dzánti K'ihéeni [ˈtsántʰì kʼìˈhíːnì]), commonly known as Juneau, is the capital city of Alaska. It is a unified municipality on Gastineau Channel in the Alaskan panhandle, and it is the second largest city in the United States by area. Juneau has been the capital of Alaska since 1906, when the government of what was the District of Alaska was moved from Sitka as dictated by the U.S. Congress in 1900. The municipality unified on July 1, 1970, when the city of Juneau merged with the city of Douglas and the surrounding Greater Juneau Borough to form the current municipality, which is larger by area than both Rhode Island and Delaware.
Downtown Juneau (58°18′07″N 134°25′11″W / 58.30194°N 134.41972°W / 58.30194; -134.41972) is nestled at the base of Mount Juneau and across the channel from Douglas Island. As of the 2010 census, the City and Borough had a population of 31,276. In 2014, the population estimate from the United States Census Bureau was 32,406, making it the second most populous city in Alaska after Anchorage.Fairbanks, however, is the state's second most populous metropolitan area, with roughly 100,000 residents. Juneau's daily population can increase by roughly 6,000 people from visiting cruise ships between the months of May and September.
The city is named after a gold prospector from Quebec, Joe Juneau, though the place was for a time called Rockwell and then Harrisburg (after Juneau's co-prospector, Richard Harris). The Tlingit name of the town is Dzántik'i Héeni ("Base of the Flounder’s River," dzánti ‘flounder,’ –kʼi ‘base,’ héen ‘river’), and Auke Bay just north of Juneau proper is called Áak'w ("Little lake," áa ‘lake,’ -kʼ ‘diminutive’) in Tlingit. The Taku River, just south of Juneau, was named after the cold t'aakh wind, which occasionally blows down from the mountains.
Select the Right Paralegal School near Juneau AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal educational program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Juneau residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide 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 selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Juneau AK.
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