How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Bullhead City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bullhead City AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Bullhead City homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Bullhead City AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including 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 practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves 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 are employed, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Bullhead City AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish 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, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Bullhead City AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Bullhead City AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Bullhead City AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Bullhead City AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Bullhead City AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish 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 might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Bullhead City AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Bullhead City AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bullhead City AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Bullhead City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Bullhead City home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bullhead City Arizona.