How to Pick the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Whittier Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Whittier AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Whittier homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Whittier AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering 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 perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants 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 handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Whittier AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired 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 also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work 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 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Whittier AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn 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 also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Whittier AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 several Whittier AK law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Whittier AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance 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 confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Whittier AK area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Whittier AK. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining 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 certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Whittier AK?
If you live near Whittier Alaska or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
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.
Paralegal Online Degree Programs Whittier AK
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Online Degree Programs. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Whittier home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Whittier AK.
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