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How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Chino Valley Arizona

Chino Valley Arizona woman paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chino Valley AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Chino Valley residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Chino Valley Arizona legal library

Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Chino Valley AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks can involve:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on related laws and cases
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
  • Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Chino Valley Arizona male legal assistant speaking on phone taking notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Chino Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of 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. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees

Chino Valley Arizona woman student attending online paralegal classesLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Chino Valley AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Colleges

Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chino Valley AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several 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 program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Chino Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.

What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Chino Valley AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Chino Valley AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Chino Valley AZ region.

What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Chino Valley AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chino Valley AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.

Find Out More About Chino Valley Online Paralegal Courses

Choose the Right Chino Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the right legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Chino Valley residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chino Valley Arizona.


 

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