How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Lake Montezuma Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lake Montezuma AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Lake Montezuma homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Lake Montezuma AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Lake Montezuma AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although 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 as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Lake Montezuma AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into 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 conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic 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 Montezuma AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Lake Montezuma AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Lake Montezuma AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Lake Montezuma AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. 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 need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Lake Montezuma AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Lake Montezuma AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Lake Montezuma AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Lake Montezuma Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, 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 provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer 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 influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Lake Montezuma Arizona.