How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Bisbee Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bisbee AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Bisbee homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Bisbee AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Bisbee AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Bisbee AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example 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 might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Bisbee AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare 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 start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to research also, 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 programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Bisbee AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. 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 education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Bisbee AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Bisbee AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Bisbee AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Bisbee AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Bisbee AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Bisbee Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bisbee home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bisbee Arizona.