How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Bisbee Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bisbee AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Bisbee residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Bisbee AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Bisbee AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Bisbee AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Bisbee AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get 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 receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Bisbee AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Bisbee AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could 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 remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Bisbee AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire 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 may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Bisbee AZ region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. 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 reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Bisbee AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Bisbee AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Bisbee Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bisbee residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Bisbee Arizona.