How to Find a Paralegal Studies Program near Whittier Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whittier AK and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Whittier homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, 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
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 Whittier AK attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice 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 files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main 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 alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Whittier AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Whittier AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Whittier AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Whittier AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Whittier AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide 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 secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Whittier AK area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Whittier AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Whittier AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Whittier AK?
If you live near Whittier 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.
Whittier is a city at the head of the Passage Canal in the U.S. state of Alaska, about 58 miles southeast of Anchorage. The city is within the Valdez–Cordova Census Area. At the 2010 census the population was 220, up from 182 in 2000. The 2016 estimate was 214 people, almost all of whom live in a single building. Whittier is also a port for the Alaska Marine Highway.
The region occupied by Whittier was once part of the portage route of the Chugach people native to Prince William Sound. Later, the passage was used by Russian and American explorers, and by prospecting miners during the gold rush. The nearby Whittier glacier was named for American poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1915, and the town eventually took the name as well.
During World War II, the United States Army constructed a military facility, complete with port and railroad near Whittier Glacier and named the facility Camp Sullivan. The spur of the Alaska Railroad to Camp Sullivan was completed in 1943 and the port became the entrance for United States soldiers into Alaska.
Choose the Ideal Legal Assistant School near Whittier AK
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Whittier home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter 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 final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Whittier AK.
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