How to Pick a Paralegal School near Bethel Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bethel AK and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Bethel residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Bethel AK 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 practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Bethel AK paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Bethel AK as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Bethel AK.
Paralegal Online Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals in Bethel AK searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating Bethel AK area schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Bethel AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Bethel AK paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Bethel AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within your Bethel AK local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, 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 also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Bethel AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bethel AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Bethel AK?
Bethel (Mamterilleq in Central Alaskan Yup'ik) is a city located near the west coast of the U.S. state of Alaska, approximately 400 miles (640 km) west of Anchorage, in the Bethel Census Area. Accessible only by air and river, Bethel is the main port on the Kuskokwim River and is an administrative and transportation hub for the 56 villages in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.
Bethel is the largest community in western Alaska and in the Unorganized Borough, as well as the 9th largest in the state, with a population of 6,080 as of the 2010 Census. Bethel is home to the lone detention center in southwestern Alaska, the Yukon Kuskokwim Correction Center.
Southwestern Alaska was the traditional place of Yup'ik people and their ancestors for thousands of years. They called their village Mamterillermiut, meaning "Smokehouse People", after their nearby fish smokehouse. It was an Alaska Commercial Company trading post during the late 19th century, and had a population of 41 people in the 1880 U.S. Census.
In 1885, the Moravian Church established a mission in the area under the leadership of Rev. William Weinland and Caroline (born Yost)  and John Henry Kilbuck, Jr., a Lenape, and his wife Edith, a daughter and granddaughter of Moravian missionaries in Kansas. They both learned Yup'ik, which greatly enhanced their effectiveness as missionaries. He made Yup'ik the language of the Moravian Church in the community and region, and helped translate scripture into the people's language. The missionaries moved Bethel from Mamterillermiut to its present location on the west side of the Kuskokwim River. A United States post office was opened in 1905.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Training near Bethel AK
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bethel home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bethel AK.
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