How to Select a Paralegal School near Hoonah Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Hoonah AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Hoonah residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Hoonah AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific 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 delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Hoonah AK is by earning a certificate, which may involve 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 many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Hoonah AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and 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 school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Hoonah AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, 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. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Hoonah AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Hoonah AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Hoonah AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Hoonah AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Hoonah AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Hoonah AK?
If you live near Hoonah 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.
Hoonah (Xunaa in Tlingit) is a largely Tlingit community on Chichagof Island, located in Alaska's panhandle in the southeast region of the state. It is 30 miles (48 km) west of Juneau, across the Alaskan Inside Passage. Hoonah is the only first-class city on Chichagof Island, the 109th largest island in the world and the 5th largest island in the United States. At the 2010 census the population was 760, down from 860 at the 2000 census. In the summer the population can swell to over 1,300 depending on fishing, boating, hiking and hunting conditions. "Hoonah" became the official spelling in 1901, with establishment of the Hoonah branch of the United States Post Office.Xunaa means "protected from the North Wind" in the Tlingit language.
The clans comprising the Huna Tlingit originally settled what is now Glacier Bay National Park as well as Icy Strait, Cross Sound, and the outer coast north to Sea Otter Creek. Two catastrophic events forced the Tlingit from their homeland; rapid glacial advance in Glacier Bay and a landslide-induced tsunami in Lituya Bay along the outer coast. Tlingit oral tradition recounts these events as well as the clans' ultimate resettlement in Xunaa.
Sheldon Jackson established the first school house and teacher's residence in November 1881. The school was initially overseen by Mr. and Mrs. Walter B. Styles of New York until their transfer to Sitka in 1882. The Reverend and Mrs. John McFarland assumed responsibility for the school in 1884, and by 1885 219 Tlingit students were enrolled: 69 boys, 76 girls and 74 adults. A territorial school and government school were built in 1923. In 1932 the government school was demolished and replaced by a Bureau of Indian Affairs school.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Hoonah AK
Selecting the right paralegal educational 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 option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Hoonah residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education 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 final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Hoonah AK.
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