How to Select a Paralegal Program near Ash Fork Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Ash Fork AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Ash Fork homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Ash Fork AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs 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 prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Ash Fork AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 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 earned at numerous 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 earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Ash Fork 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 especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, for instance 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Ash Fork AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good 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 a few Ash Fork AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Ash Fork AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable 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? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Ash Fork AZ area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Ash Fork AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Ash Fork AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Ash Fork AZ?
If you live near Ash Fork 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.
Ash Fork, Arizona
Geologic places of interest include the Cathedral Caves which are approximately 10 miles (16 km) west of town off Arizona Road, and Dante's Descent, a 275-foot (84 m) deep sinkhole also known as "Devil's Hole", which is approximately five miles northwest of Ash Fork, off of Crookton Road. Unfortunately, after closure by the state, Dante's Descent cannot legally be visited by the public. Pictorial and historic documentation of the natural attraction may be found at the Ash Fork Library.
Ash Fork lies in close proximity to Kaibab National Forest and Coconino National Forest, and international attractions such as the Grand Canyon are approximately an hour's drive away using major roads. Service roads allow swifter access to back areas of Grand Canyon National Park, but may not be open to public thoroughfare.
Approximately 15 miles (24 km) to the north of Ash Fork is Beale Road, which has the distinction of being the first federally funded highway. The internationally renowned U.S. Route 66 also runs directly through the town. Notably, the longest original, uninterrupted stretch of Route 66 still in existence (approximately 9.6 miles (15.4 km) long) can be found between Ash Fork, Arizona, and Seligman, Arizona, beginning just beyond Ash Fork at Crookton Road. The surrounding geographical area and settlements served as inspiration for the 2006 Pixar film Cars.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Ash Fork AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Ash Fork home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Ash Fork AZ.
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