How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Sitka Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sitka AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Sitka homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Sitka AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather 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 paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Sitka AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Sitka AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Sitka AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Sitka AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Sitka AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Sitka AK region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Sitka AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Sitka AK, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Sitka AK?
If you live near Sitka 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 Sitka (Tlingit: Sheetʼká), formerly Novo-Arkhangelsk, or New Archangel under Russian rule (Russian: Ново-Архангельск or Новоaрхангельск, t Novoarkhangelsk), is a unified city-borough on Baranof Island and the south half of Chichagof Island in the Alexander Archipelago of the Pacific Ocean (part of the Alaska Panhandle), in the U.S. state of Alaska. As of the 2010 census, it had a population of 8,881.
In terms of land area, it is the largest city-borough in the U.S., with a land area of 2,870.3 square miles (7,434 square kilometres) and a total area (including water area) of 4,811.4 square miles (12,461 square kilometres). Urban Sitka, the part usually thought of as the "city" of Sitka, is on the west side of Baranof Island.
The current name Sitka (derived from Sheet’ká, a contraction of the Tlingit Shee At'iká) means "People on the Outside of Baranof Island," whose Tlingit name is Sheet’-ká X'áat'l (here contracted to Shee).
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Program near Sitka AK
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Sitka residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Sitka AK.
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