How to Select the Best Paralegal Program 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 satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Bullhead City homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess 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 for the most part both fill the same job roles 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Bullhead City AZ attorneys with a wide range 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Bullhead City AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive 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 available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Bullhead City AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Bullhead City AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out 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 most potential 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 crucial issues to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Bullhead City AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Bullhead City AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Bullhead City AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial 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 neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Bullhead City AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Bullhead City AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Bullhead City AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Bullhead City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best legal assistant degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bullhead City residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Bullhead City Arizona.