How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Bisbee Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bisbee AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require 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 educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Bisbee residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Bisbee AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Bisbee AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Bisbee AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet 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 considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bisbee AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Bisbee AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Bisbee AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Bisbee AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly 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 graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Bisbee AZ region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Bisbee AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Bisbee AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Bisbee Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Bisbee home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bisbee Arizona.