How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Camp Verde Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Camp Verde AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Camp Verde residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only 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 paralegals and legal assistants assist Camp Verde AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by 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 might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited 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 since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number 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 begin your career as a legal assistant in Camp Verde AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs 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 especially appealing to Camp Verde AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Camp Verde AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Camp Verde AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 a few Camp Verde AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Camp Verde AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want 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 might need to first consider those schools that are within the Camp Verde AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Camp Verde AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Camp Verde AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Camp Verde Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Camp Verde residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Camp Verde Arizona.