How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Chinle Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chinle AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Chinle residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Chinle AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Chinle AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for those 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 earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more 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 school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Chinle AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some 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 Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Chinle AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Chinle AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Chinle AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Chinle AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Chinle AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Chinle AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Chinle Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Chinle residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community 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 prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Chinle Arizona.