How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Chino Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chino Valley AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best 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 educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Chino Valley residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Chino Valley AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, 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 restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Chino Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Chino Valley AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Chino Valley AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly 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 begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Chino Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field 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 choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Chino Valley AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Chino Valley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools 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 large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher 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 Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Chino Valley AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal 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, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Chino Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies degree program is an essential 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 Chino Valley residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chino Valley Arizona.