How to Find the Right Paralegal Course Near Chino Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chino Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Chino Valley homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns 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 have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as 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 variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically 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 standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, 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 limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Chino Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Chino Valley AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Chino Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, 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 receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Chino Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 call a few Chino Valley AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Chino Valley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Chino Valley AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget 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 choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous 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 Chino Valley AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Chino Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chino Valley home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chino Valley Arizona.