How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Lake Montezuma Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lake Montezuma AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Lake Montezuma homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lake Montezuma AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, 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 tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational 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 require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits 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 Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Lake Montezuma AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding 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, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization 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 focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Lake Montezuma AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Lake Montezuma AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start developing contacts within the Lake Montezuma AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Lake Montezuma AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Lake Montezuma AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Lake Montezuma AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Lake Montezuma Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Lake Montezuma residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lake Montezuma Arizona.