How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near New Kingman Butler Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near New Kingman Butler AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their New Kingman Butler homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist New Kingman Butler AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite 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 they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in New Kingman Butler AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to New Kingman Butler AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the New Kingman Butler AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential 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 important factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many New Kingman Butler AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific 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 choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several New Kingman Butler AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the New Kingman Butler AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering 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 field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the New Kingman Butler AZ region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense 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 expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in New Kingman Butler AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near New Kingman Butler AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best New Kingman Butler Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your New Kingman Butler residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in New Kingman Butler Arizona.