How to Choose a Paralegal College near Palmer Alaska
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Palmer AK and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Palmer homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives 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 positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Palmer AK with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Palmer AK paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 start your career in Palmer AK as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Palmer AK.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for those in Palmer AK looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary 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 cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school 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 formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating Palmer AK area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out 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 also. If you are like many potential 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 significant aspects to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Palmer AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Palmer AK paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Palmer AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want 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 might wish to first look at those schools that are within your Palmer AK local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Palmer AK. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Palmer AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Palmer AK?
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.
In one year, Palmer transformed from a mere whistle stop rail siding to a planned community with modern utilities and community services. Eleven million dollars from Federal Emergency Relief Administration was spent to create the town of Palmer and relocate 203 families from the hard hit Iron Range region of Michigan, Minnesota and Wisconsin. Families traveled by train and ship to Palmer, arriving in May 1935. Upon their arrival they were housed in a tent city during their first Alaskan summer. Each family drew lots for 40-acre (160,000 m2) tracts and their farming adventure began in earnest. The failure rate was high, but many of their descendants still live in the area and there are still many operating farms in the Palmer area, including the Vanderwheele and Wolverine farms. In 1971, the National Outdoor Leadership School started operating wilderness education courses in the nearby Talkeetna and Chugach mountain ranges from a local historic farmhouse, the Berry House, which is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Program near Palmer AK
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal educational program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Palmer home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Palmer AK.
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