How to Select a Paralegal Program near Whittier Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whittier AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Whittier residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at 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 basically both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, only 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 lawyers in Whittier AK with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Whittier AK paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Whittier AK as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Whittier AK.
Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those in Whittier AK looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Whittier AK area schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to 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 start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Whittier AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Whittier AK paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as 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 law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Whittier AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those schools that are within your Whittier AK local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Whittier AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Whittier AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Whittier AK?
Whittier is a city at the head of the Passage Canal in the U.S. state of Alaska, about 58 miles southeast of Anchorage. The city is within the Valdez–Cordova Census Area. At the 2010 census the population was 220, up from 182 in 2000. The 2016 estimate was 214 people, almost all of whom live in a single building. Whittier is also a port for the Alaska Marine Highway.
The region occupied by Whittier was once part of the portage route of the Chugach people native to Prince William Sound. Later, the passage was used by Russian and American explorers, and by prospecting miners during the gold rush. The nearby Whittier glacier was named for American poet John Greenleaf Whittier in 1915, and the town eventually took the name as well.
During World War II, the United States Army constructed a military facility, complete with port and railroad near Whittier Glacier and named the facility Camp Sullivan. The spur of the Alaska Railroad to Camp Sullivan was completed in 1943 and the port became the entrance for United States soldiers into Alaska.
The two buildings that dominate the town were built after World War II. The 14-story Hodge Building (renamed Begich Towers) was completed in 1957 and contains 150 two- and three-bedroom apartments plus bachelor efficiency units. Dependent families and Civil Service employees were moved into this high-rise. The Whittier School was connected by a tunnel at the base of the west tower so students could safely access school on days with bad weather. The building was named in honor of Colonel Walter William Hodge, who was a civil engineer and the commanding officer of 93rd Engineer Regiment on the Alcan Highway.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Whittier AK
Selecting the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Whittier residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Whittier AK.
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