How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree Program near Cottonwood Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Cottonwood AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Cottonwood residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 assist Cottonwood AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Cottonwood AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Cottonwood AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors 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 programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Cottonwood AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Cottonwood AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Cottonwood AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably 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 programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Cottonwood AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Cottonwood AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Cottonwood AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Cottonwood AZ?
If you live near Cottonwood 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.
Cottonwood is located at 34°43′56″N 112°1′7″W / 34.73222°N 112.01861°W / 34.73222; -112.01861 (34.732145, -112.018565). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.7 square miles (28 km2), all land.
Cottonwood has a semi-arid steppe climate. In January the normal high temperature is 55 °F (13 °C) with a low of 26 °F (−3 °C). In July the normal high temperature is 97 °F (36 °C) with a low of 68 °F (20 °C). Annual precipitation is around 13 inches (33 cm).
As of the census of 2000, there were 9,179 people, 3,983 households and 2,369 families residing in the city. The population density was 860.3 people per square mile (332.1/km²). There were 4,427 housing units at an average density of 414.9 per square mile (160.2/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 85.24% White, 0.49% Black or African American, 1.57% Native American, 0.41% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 9.66% from other races, and 2.59% from two or more races. 20.53% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Paralegal Online Certificate Programs Cottonwood AZ
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Online Certificate Programs. But as we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Cottonwood home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Cottonwood AZ.
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