How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Cave Creek Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cave Creek AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Cave Creek residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Cave Creek AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Cave Creek AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Cave Creek AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Cave Creek 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 if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Cave Creek AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good 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 contact a few Cave Creek AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Cave Creek AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically 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 profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Cave Creek AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Cave Creek AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening 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 sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Cave Creek Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Cave Creek residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Cave Creek Arizona.