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How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Sitka Alaska

Sitka Alaska woman paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sitka AK and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Sitka residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Sitka Alaska law books

Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 Sitka AK attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can include:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Researching related cases and laws
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping lawyers 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 role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Sitka Alaska male paralegal on cellphone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Sitka AK is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees

Sitka Alaska female student enrolled in paralegal online classesOnline paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Sitka AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.

Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs

Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Sitka AK area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Sitka AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular 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 training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Sitka AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Sitka AK legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication 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 vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Sitka AK area.

How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Sitka AK. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Sitka AK, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Sitka Online Paralegal Studies

Choose the Right Sitka Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Choosing the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Sitka residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Sitka Alaska.


 

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