How to Pick a Paralegal School near Gustavus Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gustavus AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Gustavus homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Gustavus AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, 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 abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 Gustavus AK is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Gustavus AK area, as well as vocational and trade 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 certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Gustavus AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 call a few Gustavus AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Gustavus AK legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Gustavus AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained 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 also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Gustavus AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Gustavus AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address 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 sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Gustavus AK?
If you live near Gustavus 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.
Gustavus, formerly known as "Strawberry Point", lies on the outwash plain created by the glaciers that once filled Glacier Bay. Two hundred years ago, it was primarily a single large "beach". The native Tlingit people and others used the area for fishing, berry picking, and other similar uses. The town itself is less than one hundred years old. The first settlers arrived in 1914, but left shortly afterward. The first permanent homestead was established in 1917, when Abraham Lincoln Parker moved his family to Strawberry Point. Many Gustavus residents are descendants and relatives of the original Parker homesteaders.
In 1925 the name became "Gustavus", when the U.S. Post Office required a change for its new post office, although locals continued calling it "Strawberry Point" long afterwards. The new name came from Point Gustavus at the mouth of Glacier Bay.
In 1793 George Vancouver named Point Adolphus (at the northern tip of Chichagof Island, and today a well-known humpback whale feeding area) after Adolphus Frederick, seventh son of King George III. In 1878, W.H. Dall, while working on a coastal survey, saw "Adolphus" on the map and assumed it was for Swedish king Gustavus Adolphus. The point across Icy Strait from Point Adolphus at the mouth of Glacier Bay was not named on the map, so Dall called it "Gustavus". Another possibility is that Dall named Gustavus for Gustavus C. Hanus, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate who had extensive experience throughout southeast Alaska, and both Dall and Hanus served with the Coast Survey in Alaska. Hanus laid out the first streets in Juneau and helped quell the trouble in Klukwan in 1881.
Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Gustavus AK
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Gustavus home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to 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 wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gustavus AK.
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