How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Cordova Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cordova AK and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Cordova residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Cordova AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, 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 abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Cordova AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Cordova AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Cordova AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Cordova AK law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though 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 a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Cordova AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those schools that are within the Cordova AK area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Cordova AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Cordova AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Cordova AK?
If you live near Cordova 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.
Cordova /kɔːrˈdoʊvə, ˈkɔːrdəvə/) is a small town located near the mouth of the Copper River in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, Alaska, United States, at the head of Orca Inlet on the east side of Prince William Sound. The population was 2,239 at the 2010 census, down from 2,454 in 2000. Cordova was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo in 1790. No roads connect Cordova to other Alaskan towns, so a plane or ferry is required to travel there. In the Exxon Valdez oil spill of March 1989, an oil tanker ran aground northwest of Cordova, heavily damaging ecology and fishing.
In 1790 the inlet in front of the current Cordova townsite was named Puerto Cordova by Spanish explorer Salvador Fidalgo, after Spanish admiral Luis de Córdova y Córdova. The town of Cordova was named after it, although the inlet itself was later renamed the Orca Inlet. Cordova proper was founded as a result of the discovery of high-grade copper ore at Kennecott, north of Cordova. A group of surveyors from Valdez laid out a town site and Michael James Heney purchased half the land for the terminus of the Copper River and Northwestern Railway after determining that the neighboring town of Katalla was a poor harbor. Heney and his crew held a brief ceremony to organize the town on March 26, 1906. A week later crews arrived to begin work on the railroad. The first lots in the new town site, which make up the heart of present-day Cordova, were sold at auction in May 1908. As the railroad grew, so did the town. Eventually schools, businesses, a hospital, and utilities were established. After the railroad was completed Cordova became the transportation hub for the ore coming out of Kennecott. In the years 1911 to 1938, more than 200 million tons of copper ore was transported through Cordova.
The area around Cordova was historically home to the Eyak, with a population of Chugach to the west, and occasional visits from Ahtna and Tlingit people for trade or battle. The last full-blooded Eyak Marie Smith Jones died in 2008, but the native traditions and lifestyle still has an influence on the local culture. Cordova was also once the home of a booming razor clam industry, and between 1916 and the late 1950s it was known as the "Razor Clam Capital of the World". Commercial harvest in the area was as much as 3.5 million pounds. Returns began declining in the late 1950s, presumably due to overharvesting and a large die-off in 1958. The 1964 Good Friday earthquake effectively and completely obliterated the industry; in some areas, the ground was thrust up by as much as six feet, exposing the already depleted clam beds. There has been no commercial harvest in the area since 1988 with the exception of a brief harvest in 1993.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant College near Cordova AK
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed 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 Cordova home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Cordova AK.
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