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How to Pick the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Sitka Alaska

Sitka Alaska woman paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Sitka AK and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Sitka homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Sitka Alaska law books

Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Sitka AK attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
  • Preparing correspondence and legal papers
  • Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Sitka Alaska male legal assistant on phone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, 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 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 may take just 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 can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes

Sitka Alaska woman student attending online paralegal classesLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Sitka AK students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Colleges

Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Sitka AK area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance 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 researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, 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 standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Sitka AK law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Sitka AK law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Sitka AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Alaska or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Sitka AK area.

How Much is the Complete 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 expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Sitka AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Sitka AK, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Sitka Paralegal Certificate Programs

Choose the Right Sitka Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Enrolling in the right paralegal training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Sitka home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, 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 influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Sitka Alaska.


 

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