How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Mohave Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Mohave Valley AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require 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 options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Mohave Valley residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration too. Later on 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 before making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Mohave Valley AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand 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 on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 begin your career as a legal assistant in Mohave Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Mohave Valley AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Mohave Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior 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 an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Mohave Valley AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Mohave Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication 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’s Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want 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 initially investigate those colleges that are within the Mohave Valley AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Mohave Valley AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Mohave Valley AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Mohave Valley AZ?
If you live near Mohave 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.
The Mohave Valley is a valley located mostly on the east shore of the south-flowing Colorado River in northwest Arizona. The valley extends into California's San Bernardino County; the northern side of the valley extends into extreme southeast Clark County, Nevada. The main part of the valley lies in southwest Mohave County, Arizona and is at the intersection of the southeast Mojave and northwest Sonoran deserts.
The valley extends into the three states of California, Arizona and Nevada, and the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation extends into them as well. On the west, the valley borders the Dead Mountains of California which overlook the tri-state intersection point.
Needles on Interstate 40 lies on the southwest margin of the valley overlooking the Havasu National Wildlife Refuge and Topock Marsh. The village of Topock is located at the south end of the valley where the Chemehuevi Mountains of California restrict the Colorado to the narrow Mohave Canyon.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant School near Mohave Valley AZ
Selecting the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward 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 Mohave Valley residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Mohave Valley AZ.
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