How to Select the Right Paralegal 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 profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Holbrook residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Holbrook AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, 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 abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice 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. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Holbrook AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive 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 offered also. Once you have obtained 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 employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Holbrook AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
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 because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Holbrook AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Holbrook AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided 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 practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Holbrook AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after 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 field can be challenging without help. Ask 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 substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Holbrook AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Holbrook AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Holbrook AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Holbrook Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant 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 attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Holbrook residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Holbrook Arizona.