How to Choose the Right Paralegal School Near Fort Mohave Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fort Mohave AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Fort Mohave residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Fort Mohave AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Fort Mohave AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Fort Mohave AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly 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 a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Fort Mohave AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fort Mohave AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Fort Mohave AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Fort Mohave AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification 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 want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Fort Mohave AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Fort Mohave AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fort Mohave AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Fort Mohave Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Fort Mohave residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Fort Mohave Arizona.