How to Choose the Right Paralegal Course Near Lake Montezuma Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lake Montezuma AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Lake Montezuma residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at 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. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lake Montezuma AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Lake Montezuma AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Lake Montezuma AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Lake Montezuma AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, including 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 effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Lake Montezuma AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Lake Montezuma AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Lake Montezuma AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Lake Montezuma AZ region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Lake Montezuma AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Lake Montezuma AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Lake Montezuma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lake Montezuma residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational 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 broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lake Montezuma Arizona.