How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Lake Montezuma Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lake Montezuma AZ and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right 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 a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Lake Montezuma residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Lake Montezuma AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Lake Montezuma AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Lake Montezuma AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Lake Montezuma AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical 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 programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Lake Montezuma AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify 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 graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Lake Montezuma AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of 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 charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Lake Montezuma AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Lake Montezuma AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lake Montezuma AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Lake Montezuma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lake Montezuma home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior 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 profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lake Montezuma Arizona.