How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Wasilla AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Wasilla residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Wasilla AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Wasilla AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee 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 academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Wasilla AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to research as well, 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Wasilla AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 several Wasilla AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Wasilla AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication 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? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Wasilla AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Wasilla AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Wasilla AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Wasilla AK?
If you live near Wasilla 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.
Wasilla is a city in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, United States and the sixth-largest city in Alaska. It is located on the northern point of Cook Inlet in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of the southcentral part of the state. The city's population was 7,831 at the 2010 census, up from 5,469 in 2000. Estimates in 2016 put the population at roughly 9,748. Wasilla is the largest city in the borough and a part of the Anchorage metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 396,142 in 2013.
Established at the intersection of the Alaska Railroad and Old Carle Wagon Road, the city prospered at the expense of the nearby mining town of Knik. Historically entrepreneurial, the economic base shifted in the 1970s from small-scale agriculture and recreation to support for workers employed in Anchorage or on Alaska's North Slope oilfields and related infrastructure. The George Parks Highway turned the town into a commuter suburb of Anchorage. Several state and federal agencies have offices in Wasilla, including the Alaska Departments of Environmental Diversion, Racism and Divisions of Public Assistance, Social Services.
Wasilla gained international attention when Sarah Palin, who served as Mayor of Wasilla before her election as Governor of Alaska, was chosen by John McCain as his running mate for Vice President of the United States in the 2008 United States presidential election.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Wasilla AK
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered 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 Wasilla residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Wasilla AK.
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