How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Cave Creek Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cave Creek AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Cave Creek homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Cave Creek AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 legal assistant in Cave Creek AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Cave Creek AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Cave Creek 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 particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at 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 final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify 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 also. Numerous Cave Creek AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Cave Creek AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Cave Creek AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Cave Creek AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Cave Creek AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Cave Creek 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 choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Cave Creek Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Cave Creek residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact 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 be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Cave Creek Arizona.