How to Choose the Right Paralegal Program near Flagstaff Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Flagstaff AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Flagstaff homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Flagstaff AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Flagstaff AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Flagstaff AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Flagstaff AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Flagstaff AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Flagstaff AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success 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 corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Flagstaff AZ area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Flagstaff AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Flagstaff AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Flagstaff AZ?
If you live near Flagstaff 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.
Flagstaff is a city in and the county seat of Coconino County in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2015, the city's estimated population was 70,320. Flagstaff's combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097. The city is named after a ponderosa pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Second Boston Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.
Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States. Flagstaff is next to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Flagstaff's early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to Lowell Observatory, The U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a center for medical device manufacturing, since Flagstaff is home to W. L. Gore and Associates.
Online Legal Studies Programs Flagstaff AZ
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Online Legal Studies Programs. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Flagstaff home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Flagstaff AZ.
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