How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Course 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 lead to a rewarding 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 be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Lake Havasu City residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lake Havasu City AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 way to start your career as a legal assistant in Lake Havasu City AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Lake Havasu City AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because 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 evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating 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 enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lake Havasu City AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Lake Havasu City AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Lake Havasu City AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Lake Havasu City AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Lake Havasu City AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lake Havasu City AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Lake Havasu City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is a vital 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Lake Havasu City residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lake Havasu City Arizona.