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How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Chinle Arizona

Chinle Arizona female paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chinle AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Chinle homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Chinle Arizona legal library

Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. 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 might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal 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 level of professionalism and abide by 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 routine activities might include:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Researching related cases and laws
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records

With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Chinle Arizona male paralegal speaking on cellphone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Chinle AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 school (we will discuss 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.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training

Chinle Arizona female student attending online paralegal coursesLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Chinle AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.

Things to Ask Paralegal Programs

Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Chinle AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider also, 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 schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance 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. Numerous Chinle AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Chinle AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Chinle AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Chinle AZ area.

How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Chinle AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely 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, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Chinle Online Paralegal Courses

Enroll in the Right Chinle Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Selecting the best paralegal training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chinle home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program 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 schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chinle Arizona.


 

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