How to Pick the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Holbrook Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Holbrook AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among 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 options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Holbrook homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Holbrook AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Holbrook AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Holbrook AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Holbrook AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Holbrook AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Holbrook AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Holbrook AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive 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 may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Holbrook AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Holbrook AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Holbrook AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Holbrook Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Holbrook residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire 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 decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Holbrook Arizona.