How to Select a Paralegal Degree Program near Wasilla Alaska
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Wasilla AK and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for paralegal schools within traveling range of their Wasilla homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help lawyers in Wasilla AK with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Wasilla AK paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, 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 restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Wasilla AK as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive 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 offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Alaska to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Wasilla AK.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students in Wasilla AK looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Wasilla AK area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical issues to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Wasilla AK law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Wasilla AK paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Wasilla AK legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Alaska legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Wasilla AK local area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Wasilla AK. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Wasilla AK, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose 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 Wasilla AK?
Wasilla is a city in Matanuska-Susitna Borough, United States and the sixth-largest city in Alaska. It is located on the northern point of Cook Inlet in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley of the southcentral part of the state. The city's population was 7,831 at the 2010 census. Estimates in 2013 put the population at roughly 8,621. Wasilla is the largest city in the borough and a part of the Anchorage metropolitan area, which had an estimated population of 396,142 in 2013.
Established at the intersection of the Alaska Railroad and Old Carle Wagon Road, the city prospered at the expense of the nearby mining town of Knik. Historically entrepreneurial, the economic base shifted in the 1970s from small-scale agriculture and recreation to support for workers employed in Anchorage or on Alaska's North Slope oilfields and related infrastructure. The George Parks Highway turned the town into a commuter suburb of Anchorage. Several state and federal agencies have offices in Wasilla, including the Alaska Departments of Environmental Conservation, Labor and Divisions of Public Assistance, Social Services.
Wasilla gained international attention when Sarah Palin, who served as Mayor of Wasilla before her election as Governor of Alaska, was chosen by John McCain as his running mate for Vice President of the United States in the 2008 United States presidential election.
Wasilla is named after Chief Wasilla, a local Dena'ina chief. "Wasilla" is the anglicized spelling of the chief's Russian-given name, Васи́лий Vasilij, which corresponds to the English name Basil.
Find the Best Paralegal School near Wasilla AK
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Wasilla home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Wasilla AK.
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