How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Holbrook homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Holbrook AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical 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, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Holbrook AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Holbrook AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Holbrook AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know 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 many 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 important aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Holbrook AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Holbrook AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Holbrook AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial 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? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Holbrook AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Holbrook AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Holbrook AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Holbrook Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Holbrook home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Holbrook Arizona.