How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Course Near Fort Mohave Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fort Mohave AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Fort Mohave residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Fort Mohave AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized 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 functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Fort Mohave AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can 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 an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Fort Mohave AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials 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 training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about 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 structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Fort Mohave AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of 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 important issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Fort Mohave AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn 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 experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Fort Mohave AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Fort Mohave AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial 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 a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Fort Mohave AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Fort Mohave AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Fort Mohave AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Fort Mohave Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fort Mohave home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fort Mohave Arizona.