How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Lake Havasu City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lake Havasu City AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Lake Havasu City homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 Lake Havasu City AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Lake Havasu City AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn 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 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Lake Havasu City AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Lake Havasu City AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Lake Havasu City AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Lake Havasu City AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Lake Havasu City AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Lake Havasu City AZ region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Lake Havasu City AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend 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 select offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Lake Havasu City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best legal assistant training program is an important first step to guarantee 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 education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Lake Havasu City Arizona.