How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Cave Creek Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cave Creek AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Cave Creek homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Cave Creek AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative 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 have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Cave Creek AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue 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 career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 cover 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Cave Creek AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Cave Creek AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 covered, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program 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 may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, 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 legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Cave Creek AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Cave Creek AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Cave Creek AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Cave Creek AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only 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, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Cave Creek Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies training program is a vital 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Cave Creek home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Cave Creek Arizona.