How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Lake Montezuma Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lake Montezuma AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Lake Montezuma homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold 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 are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Lake Montezuma AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Lake Montezuma AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have earned 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 improve your employment 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Lake Montezuma AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Lake Montezuma AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. 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 critical aspects to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Lake Montezuma AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Lake Montezuma AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Lake Montezuma AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Lake Montezuma AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Lake Montezuma AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Lake Montezuma AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Lake Montezuma Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding 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 comfort and privacy of your Lake Montezuma residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting 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 have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lake Montezuma Arizona.