How to Find a Paralegal Training Program near Tok Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Tok AK and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Tok homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically 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 belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Tok AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, 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 limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Tok AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Tok AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly 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 begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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. Numerous Tok AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Tok AK law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could 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 establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Tok AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Tok AK area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Tok AK. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Tok AK, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Tok AK?
If you live near Tok 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.
Tok lies on a large, flat alluvial plain of the Tanana Valley between the Tanana River and the Alaska Range at an important junction of the Alaska Highway (Alaska Route 2) with the Glenn Highway (Alaska Route 1). According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 132.3 square miles (343 km2), all of it land.
As of the census of 2000, there were 1,393 people, 534 households, and 372 families residing in the census designated place (CDP). The population density was 10.5 people per square mile (6.1/km²). There were 748 housing units at an average density of 5.7 per square mile (2.2/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 78.03% White, 0.14% Black or African American, 12.85% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.93% from other races, and 7.61% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.08% of the population.
There were 534 households out of which 39.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 53.7% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.3% were non-families. 24.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 5.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 3.12.
Find the Right Legal Assistant Training near Tok AK
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Tok home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community 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. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Tok AK.
Other Alaska Locations That May Be Of Interest