How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Palmer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Palmer AK and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get 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 more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Palmer residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 hold the same job roles and functions, 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 legal assistants and paralegals assist Palmer 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 firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Palmer AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Palmer AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Palmer AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Palmer AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Palmer AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Palmer AK area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Palmer AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Palmer AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Palmer AK?
If you live near Palmer 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.
Palmer is a city in and the borough seat of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in the U.S. state of Alaska. It is part of the Anchorage Metropolitan Statistical Area. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city is 5,937.
The first people to live in the Matanuska Valley, where Palmer is located, were the Dena'ina and Ahtna Athabaskans. They moved throughout the area, living a subsistence lifestyle and trading with other native groups. Their trade routes were along the Matanuska River. Russians came to Alaska in 1741 and brought the Russian Orthodox religious tradition to the indigenous peoples of the region. In the early 1890s, an entrepreneur named George W. Palmer built a trading post on the Matanuska River, near present-day Palmer. The town was later named after Palmer.
In the late 19th century, the U.S. government began to take interest in the Matanuska coal fields located north of Palmer. This interest sparked financiers to consider constructing the Alaska Central Railroad in 1904. The advent of World War I created a need for high quality coal to fuel U.S. battleships, and by 1917 the US Navy had constructed rail from the port of Seward to the Chickaloon coal deposits. At the end of World War I, the U.S. Navy distributed land in the coal fields to war veterans and additional land was opened to homesteading. Farmers, miners and homesteaders began to populate the area. The Palmer Post Office was opened July 6, 1917 under the name of Warton. With railroad accessibility, new markets for agriculture began to open up for farmers in the Matanuska Valley.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training near Palmer AK
Selecting the best paralegal training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Palmer home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain 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 goal to become a practicing paralegal in Palmer AK.
Other Alaska Locations That May Be Of Interest
Business Results 1 - 10 of 1