How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Petersburg Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Petersburg AK and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, 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. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Petersburg residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Petersburg AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Petersburg AK is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six 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 earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Petersburg AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Petersburg AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 contact some Petersburg AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Petersburg AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Petersburg AK area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember 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 make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Petersburg AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Petersburg AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs 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 quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Petersburg AK?
If you live near Petersburg 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.
Petersburg (Tlingit: Gantiyaakw Séedi "Steamboat Channel") is a census-designated place (CDP) in Petersburg Borough, Alaska, United States. The population was 2,948 at the 2010 census, down from 3,224 in 2000.
The borough encompasses Petersburg and Kupreanof, plus mostly uninhabited areas stretching to the Canadian–American border and the southern boundary of the City and Borough of Juneau. While the city of Petersburg ceased to exist as a separate administrative entity (the borough assembly created a service area to assume operation of the former city's services), the tiny city of Kupreanof remains separate within the borough.
Tlingits from Kupreanof Island had long used a summer fish camp at the north end of Mitkof Island. Earlier cultures of indigenous people also used the island: remnants of fish traps and some petroglyphs have been carbon-dated back some 1,000 years.
Find the Best Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Petersburg AK
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Petersburg residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, 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. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Petersburg AK.
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