How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Fairbanks Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fairbanks AK and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Fairbanks residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 lawyers in Fairbanks AK with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Fairbanks AK paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career in Fairbanks AK as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Fairbanks AK.
Paralegal Online Certificates
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for those in Fairbanks AK looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary 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 discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing Fairbanks AK area schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fairbanks AK law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Fairbanks AK paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which 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 Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Fairbanks AK legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within your Fairbanks AK local region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Fairbanks AK. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fairbanks AK, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Fairbanks AK?
Fairbanks is the largest city in the Interior region of Alaska. 2016 estimates put the population of the city proper at 32,751, and the population of the Fairbanks North Star Borough at 100,605, making it the second most populous metropolitan area in Alaska (after Anchorage). The Metropolitan Statistical Area encompasses all of the Fairbanks North Star Borough and is the northernmost Metropolitan Statistical Area in the United States, located 196 driving miles (or 140 air miles) south of the Arctic Circle. Fairbanks is home to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the founding campus of the University of Alaska system.
Though there was never a permanent Alaska Native settlement at the site of Fairbanks, Athabascan peoples have used the area for thousands of years. An archaeological site excavated on the grounds of the University of Alaska Fairbanks uncovered a Native camp about 3,500 years old. From evidence gathered at the site, archaeologists surmise that Native activities in the area were limited to seasonal hunting and fishing. In addition, archeological sites on the grounds of nearby Fort Wainwright date back 10,000 years. Arrowheads excavated from the University of Alaska Fairbanks site matched similar items found in Asia, providing some of the first evidence that humans arrived in North America via the land bridge.
Captain E. T. Barnette founded Fairbanks in August 1901 while headed to Tanacross (or Tanana Crossing, where the Valdez–Eagle trail crossed the Tanana River), where he intended to set up a trading post. The steamboat on which Barnette was a passenger, the Lavelle Young, ran aground while attempting to negotiate shallow water. Barnette, along with his party and supplies, were deposited along the banks of the Chena River 7 miles (11 km) upstream from its confluence with the Tanana River. The sight of smoke from the steamer's engines caught the attention of gold prospectors working in the hills to the north, most notably an Italian immigrant named Felice Pedroni (better known as Felix Pedro) and his partner Tom Gilmore. The two met Barnette where he disembarked and convinced him of the potential of the area. Barnette set up his trading post at the site, still intending to eventually make it to Tanacross. Teams of gold prospectors soon congregated in and around the newly founded Fairbanks; they built drift mines, dredges, and lode mines in addition to panning and sluicing.
After some urging by James Wickersham, who later moved the seat of the Third Division court from Eagle to Fairbanks, the settlement was named after Charles W. Fairbanks, a Republican senator from Indiana and later the twenty-sixth Vice President of the United States, serving under Theodore Roosevelt during his second term.
Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Fairbanks AK
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fairbanks home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Fairbanks AK.
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