How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Chino Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chino Valley AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Chino Valley homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Chino Valley AZ attorneys 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 based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Chino Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Chino Valley AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chino Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering 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 pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get 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 obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chino Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 some Chino Valley AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Chino Valley AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large 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? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Chino Valley AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary 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. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Chino Valley AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chino Valley AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Chino Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Chino Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence 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 be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Chino Valley Arizona.