How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Kingman Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kingman AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Kingman residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Kingman AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Kingman AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Kingman AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example 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 may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Kingman AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential 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 significant factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Kingman AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 several Kingman AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. 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 Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Kingman AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs 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 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? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those schools that are within the Kingman AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Kingman AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Kingman AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Kingman Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Kingman home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Kingman Arizona.