How to Choose the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Girdwood Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Girdwood AK and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Girdwood residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must 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 need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Girdwood AK attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as 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 firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Girdwood AK is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Girdwood AK area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 covered, there are other important factors to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Girdwood AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Girdwood AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Girdwood AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community 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 may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Girdwood AK area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Girdwood AK. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Girdwood AK, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Girdwood AK?
If you live near Girdwood 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.
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.
How Long Is A Paralegal Program Girdwood AK
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How Long Is A Paralegal Program. But as we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Girdwood residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Girdwood AK.
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