How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Lakeside Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lakeside AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive 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 a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Lakeside homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly 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 the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Lakeside AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed 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 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Lakeside AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Lakeside AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Lakeside AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Lakeside AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Lakeside AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing 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 wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Lakeside AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Lakeside AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Lakeside AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Lakeside AZ?
If you live near Lakeside AZ or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Pinetop–Lakeside is a small town in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. According to 2010 census, the population of the town is 4,282. It was founded in 1984 when the neighboring towns of Pinetop and Lakeside merged.
Pinetop–Lakeside is a popular summer resort and second-home area for Arizona desert residents. In 2002, a large forest fire, the Rodeo-Chediski fire, threatened the town and forced an evacuation. The town is near extensive forests, and in normal times is a popular recreational area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 11.3 square miles (29 km2), of which, 11.3 square miles (29 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.71%) is water.
Select the Ideal Legal Assistant College near Lakeside AZ
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Lakeside home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Lakeside AZ.
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