How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Chinle Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chinle AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic 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 driving range of their Chinle residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered too. Later 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 each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only 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 help Chinle AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Chinle AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Chinle AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may 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 ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Chinle AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to think about as well, for instance 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 programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chinle AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Chinle 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 could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Chinle AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. 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 large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Chinle AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Chinle AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Chinle AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Chinle Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies degree school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chinle home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chinle Arizona.