How to Select the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Kingman Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Kingman AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Kingman homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Kingman AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Kingman AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and obtain 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 as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Kingman AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs 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 quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Kingman AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out 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 most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Kingman AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Kingman AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Kingman AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Kingman AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Kingman AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have 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 sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Kingman Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed 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. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Kingman Arizona.