How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Lake Havasu City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lake Havasu City AZ and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Lake Havasu City residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lake Havasu City AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Lake Havasu City AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Lake Havasu City AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced 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 certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Lake Havasu City AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Lake Havasu City AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School'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 entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Lake Havasu City AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Lake Havasu City AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Lake Havasu City AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Lake Havasu City AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lake Havasu City AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Lake Havasu City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed 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 Lake Havasu City home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lake Havasu City Arizona.