How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate 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 gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive 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 increasingly more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Bullhead City homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices 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 functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Bullhead City AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects 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 involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Bullhead City AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Bullhead City 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 add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Bullhead City AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Bullhead City AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Bullhead City AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Bullhead City AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Bullhead City AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Bullhead City AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Bullhead City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bullhead City home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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 schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Bullhead City Arizona.