How to Find a Paralegal Program near Dillingham Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Dillingham AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Dillingham residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, 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 separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Dillingham AK lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks 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 number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Dillingham AK is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Dillingham AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues 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 programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Dillingham AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Dillingham AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Dillingham AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Dillingham AK region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Dillingham AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Dillingham AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Dillingham AK?
If you live near Dillingham 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.
Dillingham /ˈdɪlɪŋhæm/ (Curyuk in Central Alaskan Yup'ik), also known as Curyung and (for the southwestern section) Kanakanak, is a city in Dillingham Census Area, Alaska, United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 2,329, down from 2,466 in 2000.
Dillingham is on Nushagak Bay at the mouth of the Nushagak River, an inlet of Bristol Bay, an arm of the Bering Sea in the North Pacific, in southwestern Alaska. It is located at 59°02′48″N 158°30′31″W / 59.04667°N 158.50861°W / 59.04667; -158.50861 (59.046751, -158.508665).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 36.3 square miles (94.1 km2). 33.6 square miles (86.9 km2) of it is land, and 2.8 square miles (7.2 km2) of it (7.64%) is water. This may change as the City of Dillingham will likely petition the State of Alaska to increase the size of its boundaries to include most of Nushagak Bay and Wood River, to gain revenue from the Nushagak District and Wood River Special Harvest Area commercial salmon fisheries.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant Program near Dillingham AK
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Dillingham residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose 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 program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Dillingham AK.
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