How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Fort Mohave Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fort Mohave AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Fort Mohave homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Fort Mohave AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Fort Mohave AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Fort Mohave AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community 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 when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Fort Mohave AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 contact some Fort Mohave AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Fort Mohave AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Fort Mohave AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Fort Mohave AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Fort Mohave AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Fort Mohave Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Fort Mohave residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect 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 program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Fort Mohave Arizona.