How to Select a Paralegal Program near Anchorage Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Anchorage AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Anchorage residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Anchorage AK with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’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 noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Anchorage AK paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Anchorage AK as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Anchorage AK.
Online Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students in Anchorage AK looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education 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 agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the process of assessing Anchorage AK area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Anchorage AK law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Anchorage AK paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need 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 services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Anchorage AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. 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 sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within your Anchorage AK local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Anchorage AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Anchorage AK, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Anchorage AK?
Anchorage (officially called the Municipality of Anchorage) (Dena'ina Athabascan: Dgheyaytnu) is a unified home rule municipality in the U.S. state of Alaska. With an estimated 298,192 residents in 2016, it is Alaska's most populous city and contains more than 40 percent of the state's total population; among the 50 states, only New York has a higher percentage of residents who live in its most populous city. All together, the Anchorage metropolitan area, which combines Anchorage with the neighboring Matanuska-Susitna Borough, had a population of 401,635 in 2016, which accounts for more than half of the state's population.
Anchorage is located in the south-central portion of Alaska, at the terminus of the Cook Inlet, on a peninsula formed by the Knik Arm to the north and the Turnagain Arm to the south. The city limits span 1,961.1 square miles (5,079.2 km2) which encompass the urban core, a joint military base, several outlying communities and almost all of Chugach State Park.
Due to its location, almost equidistant from New York City, Frankfurt, and Tokyo, Anchorage lies within 9 1⁄2 hours by air of nearly 90% of the industrialized world. For this reason, the Anchorage International Airport is a common refueling stop for many international cargo flights and is home to a major FedEx hub, which the company calls a "critical part" of its global network of services.
Anchorage has won the All-America City Award four times: in 1956, 1965, 1984–85, and 2002, by the National Civic League. It has also been named by Kiplinger as the most tax-friendly city in the United States.
Choose the Right Paralegal College near Anchorage AK
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Anchorage residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anchorage AK.
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