How to Find the Best Paralegal 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 lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Lake Havasu City residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, 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 help Lake Havasu City AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they 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 lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Lake Havasu City AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Lake Havasu City AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating 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 evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Lake Havasu City AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking 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 some Lake Havasu City 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 the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Lake Havasu City AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high 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 graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Lake Havasu City AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to talk to 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, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely 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 choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Lake Havasu City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lake Havasu City residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lake Havasu City Arizona.