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How to Pick the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Chino Valley Arizona

Chino Valley Arizona female paralegal consulting with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chino Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Chino Valley residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Chino Valley Arizona legal library

Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chino Valley AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular activities can include:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
  • Composing correspondence and legal papers
  • Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records

With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Chino Valley Arizona male legal assistant on phone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, 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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Chino Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes

Chino Valley Arizona female student enrolled in online paralegal trainingParalegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Chino Valley AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Schools

Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Chino Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Chino Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.

What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including 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 suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Chino Valley AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Chino Valley AZ region.

What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Chino Valley AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. 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, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.

Find Out More About Chino Valley Paralegal Certificate and Degree Programs

Choose the Best Chino Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the best paralegal studies degree school 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Chino Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chino Valley Arizona.


 

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