How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant Training Program near Palmer Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Palmer AK and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal 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 more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Palmer homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Palmer AK attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring files 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 conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main 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 number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Palmer AK is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn 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 as well. 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Palmer AK area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Palmer AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Palmer AK law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Palmer AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alaska or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Palmer AK area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Palmer AK. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Palmer AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school 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 may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Palmer AK?
If you live near Palmer 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.
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.
How To Get A Paralegal Degree Palmer AK
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 To Get A Paralegal Degree. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Palmer home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Palmer AK.
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