How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Bullhead City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bullhead City AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Bullhead City residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Bullhead City AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay 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 complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Bullhead City AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Bullhead City AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Bullhead City AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Bullhead City AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Bullhead City AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, 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 a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Bullhead City AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Bullhead City AZ region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Bullhead City AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Bullhead City AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Bullhead City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Bullhead City home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training 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 ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Bullhead City Arizona.