How to Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Lake Havasu City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lake Havasu City AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Lake Havasu City residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 fill the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Lake Havasu City AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Lake Havasu City AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned 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 as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two 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 prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Lake Havasu City AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet 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 caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Lake Havasu City AZ area, as well as 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 certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain 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 future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lake Havasu City AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Lake Havasu City AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Lake Havasu City AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those schools that are within the Lake Havasu City AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Lake Havasu City AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lake Havasu City AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Lake Havasu City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lake Havasu City home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lake Havasu City Arizona.