How to Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Chinle Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chinle AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Chinle homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold 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 belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chinle AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Chinle AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Chinle AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Chinle AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate 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 covered, there are other important aspects 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 programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chinle AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as 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 recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Chinle AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Chinle AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Chinle AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. 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 sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Chinle Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chinle home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and 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 opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chinle Arizona.