How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Holbrook Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Holbrook AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Holbrook homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program 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 every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles 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 functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Holbrook AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained 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. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 program (we will cover the benefits 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.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Holbrook AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Holbrook AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Holbrook AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Holbrook AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Holbrook AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Holbrook AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Holbrook AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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 program you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Holbrook Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Holbrook home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Holbrook Arizona.