How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Camp Verde Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Camp Verde AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Camp Verde residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Camp Verde AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Camp Verde AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. 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 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online 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 particularly attractive to Camp Verde AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Camp Verde AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 critical factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Camp Verde AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Camp Verde AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Camp Verde AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. 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 indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Camp Verde AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Camp Verde AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Camp Verde AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Camp Verde Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies training school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Camp Verde residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Camp Verde Arizona.