How to Pick a Paralegal School near Girdwood Alaska
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Girdwood AK and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Girdwood residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Girdwood AK with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting documents 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 carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare 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 Girdwood AK paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career in Girdwood AK as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Girdwood AK.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students in Girdwood AK looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized 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 school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing Girdwood AK area schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 important issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Girdwood AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Girdwood AK paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Girdwood AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within your Girdwood AK local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Girdwood AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Girdwood 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 select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Girdwood AK?
Girdwood is a resort town within the southern extent of the Municipality of Anchorage in the state of Alaska. Located near the end of the Turnagain Arm of Cook Inlet, Girdwood lies in a valley in the southwestern Chugach Mountains, surrounded by seven glaciers feeding into a number of creeks, which either converge within the valley or empty directly into the arm. Girdwood is typically accessed by the Seward Highway (Milepost 90), with the main line of the Alaska Railroad paralleling the highway. By road distance, most of the community lies within 35 to 40 miles (56 to 64 km) of downtown Anchorage. According to 2014 estimates, a little under 2,000 people live in the valley.
Founded as a community to supply miners during the Turnagain Arm gold rushes of the 1890s, Girdwood was mostly a small, quiet place until the middle of the 20th century. Two events drastically altered that. The first was the establishment of Alyeska Resort along the slopes of Mount Alyeska, which became an international destination coincidental with Anchorage's civic promotion of itself as "The Air Crossroads of the World". The second was the 1964 earthquake, which devastated the original townsite located directly along the arm. Following the earthquake, most of the town moved further up the valley to a new townsite, though a few homes remained and a strip mall was later constructed along the Seward Highway. Historically dominated in the years since the resort's opening by seasonally-occupied vacation homes and seasonal activity at the resort, the opening of the Alyeska Prince Hotel during the 1990s has shifted the resort, and hence Girdwood as a whole, more towards year-round activity and a year-round economy. This has led to periodic debates about community growth and affordability of housing for resort workers, many of whom over the years have resorted to camping illegally on public lands.
Girdwood still revolves heavily around seasonal activity, with skiing and snowboarding at Alyeska Resort bringing visitors and their money into the community. Summer activities are also popular, which include hiking, fishing and rafting. The Girdwood Forest Fair, held every July, is the community's most significant visitor attraction apart from resort-related activities. Girdwood is located within the northernmost extent of rain forest on Earth, and also serves as the closest point of access to Chugach National Forest from Anchorage proper.
Originally called "Glacier City," Girdwood was founded as a supply camp for placer gold miners with claims along the creeks feeding Turnagain Arm. It was renamed for Colonel James Girdwood, a Belfast-born, Scots-Irish entrepreneur and linen merchant who staked the first four gold claims along Crow Creek in 1896.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Certificate Program near Girdwood AK
Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Girdwood residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Girdwood AK.
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