How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Bethel Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bethel AK and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Bethel residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review 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 first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Bethel AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Bethel AK is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Bethel AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized 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 training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Bethel AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
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 special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Bethel AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Bethel AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those schools that are within the Bethel AK region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Bethel AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Bethel AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Bethel AK?
If you live near Bethel 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.
Bethel (Mamterilleq in Central Alaskan Yup'ik) is the largest community on the Kuskokwim river, located approximately 50 mi (80 km) upriver from where the river flows into Kuskokwim Bay. Bethel is the largest community in western Alaska and in the Unorganized Borough, as well as the 9th largest in the state, with a population of 6,080 as of the 2010 Census. Bethel is home to the lone detention center in southwestern Alaska, the Yukon Kuskokwim Correction Center.
Southwestern Alaska was the traditional place of Yup'ik people and their ancestors for thousands of years. They called their village Mamterillermiut, meaning "Smokehouse People", after their nearby fish smokehouse. It was an Alaska Commercial Company trading post during the late 19th century, and had a population of 41 people in the 1880 U.S. Census.
In 1885, the Moravian Church established a mission in the area under the leadership of Rev. William Weinland and Caroline (born Yost)  and John Henry Kilbuck, Jr., a Lenape, and his wife Edith, a daughter and granddaughter of Moravian missionaries in Kansas. They both learned Yup'ik, which greatly enhanced their effectiveness as missionaries. He made Yup'ik the language of the Moravian Church in the community and region, and helped translate scripture into the people's language. The missionaries moved Bethel from Mamterillermiut to its present location on the west side of the Kuskokwim River. A United States post office was opened in 1905.
Select the Best Paralegal Training near Bethel AK
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Bethel residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Bethel AK.
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