How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program 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 fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Fort Mohave homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill 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 are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fort Mohave AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep 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 involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Fort Mohave AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Fort Mohave AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Fort Mohave AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and 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 obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fort Mohave AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Fort Mohave AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fort Mohave AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Fort Mohave AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure 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 available to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Fort Mohave AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fort Mohave AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Fort Mohave Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training 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 option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Fort Mohave residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Fort Mohave Arizona.