How to Choose a Paralegal Studies Program near Chino Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chino Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Chino Valley residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 help Chino Valley AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Chino Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get 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 substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Chino Valley AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Chino Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. 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 quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Chino Valley AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Chino Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Chino Valley AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Chino Valley AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Chino Valley AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Chino Valley AZ?
If you live near Chino Valley 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.
Chino Valley, Arizona
Chino Valley is located at 34°45′30″N 112°26′59″W / 34.75833°N 112.44972°W / 34.75833; -112.44972 (34.758381, -112.449758). The town is located adjacent the southeast terminus of Chino Valley, about 9 miles (14 km) north at Paulden. The smaller north-trending Little Chino Valley lies just east of the townsite.
Chino Valley is the site of the first Territorial Capital of Arizona. The capital moved to Prescott, 15 miles (24 km) away, in 1864. U.S. Army Cavalry Lt. Amiel W. Whipple, while traveling through the area in 1854, gave the community its name. "Chino" is the Spanish name for the abundant curly grama grass growing in the area.
In 1895, a narrow gauge branch of the United Verde and Pacific Railroad to Jerome, joining the Santa Fe, Prescott, and Phoenix Railway, was completed, and Jerome Junction was established. In 1923, the activities of Jerome Junction were absorbed by Chino Valley.
Find the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Chino Valley AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is a vital 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 comfort and privacy of your Chino Valley home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact 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 best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Chino Valley AZ.
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