How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies School near Lakeside Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Lakeside AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Lakeside homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Lakeside AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather 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 proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 paralegal in Lakeside AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Lakeside AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify 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 also. Numerous Lakeside AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Lakeside AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Lakeside AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Lakeside AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained 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 might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Lakeside AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Lakeside AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure 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 agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Lakeside AZ?
If you live near Lakeside Arizona or perhaps 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.
How to Choose Paralegal Degree Programs Lakeside AZ
Choosing the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about How to Choose Paralegal Degree Programs. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Lakeside residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Lakeside AZ.
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