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How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Bethel Alaska

Bethel Alaska female paralegal consulting with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bethel AK and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Bethel homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Bethel Alaska law books

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Bethel AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with 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 regular tasks may include:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records

With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Bethel Alaska male paralegal speaking on phone writing notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Bethel AK is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training

Bethel Alaska female student enrolled in online paralegal classesOnline paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Bethel AK students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs

Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Bethel AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bethel AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.

What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Bethel AK law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, 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 remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Bethel AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.

Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Bethel AK region.

How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Bethel AK. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Bethel AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Bethel Online Paralegal Schools

Enroll in the Best Bethel Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Enrolling in the best paralegal certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Bethel home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding 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 be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bethel Alaska.


 

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