How to Select the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Bullhead City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Bullhead City AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Bullhead City homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of 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 variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Bullhead City AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Bullhead City AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Bullhead City AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in 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 learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Bullhead City AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific 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 choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 some Bullhead City AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing 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 entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large 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's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Bullhead City AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Bullhead City AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Bullhead City AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Bullhead City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bullhead City residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bullhead City Arizona.