How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Cave Creek Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cave Creek AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Cave Creek residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later in this post 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 selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Cave Creek AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering files 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 comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since 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 alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Cave Creek AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Cave Creek AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Cave Creek AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research also, including 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 schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Cave Creek AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Cave Creek AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Cave Creek AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Cave Creek AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Cave Creek AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes 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 Cave Creek AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Cave Creek Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Cave Creek residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Cave Creek Arizona.