How to Find the Right Legal Assistant Certificate Program near New River Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near New River AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their New River residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist New River AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, 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 practice could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in New River AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the New River AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous New River AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 a few New River AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the New River AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the New River AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in New River AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near New River AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near New River AZ?
If you live near New River 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.
New River, Arizona
New River is named after the seasonal wash of the same name, part of the Agua Fria River system which drains into the Salt River. It was founded by Lord Darrell Duppa in 1868 as a stagecoach stop. For many years it was the terminus of the old Black Canyon Highway (now Interstate 17). The pavement ended in New River and continued as a dirt road to the city of Prescott.
New River is located at 33°52′9″N 112°5′9″W / 33.86917°N 112.08583°W / 33.86917; -112.08583 (33.869149, −112.085759). It is bordered by the Tonto National Forest to the north, Cave Creek to the east, Phoenix to the south, and Anthem to the west. The CDP includes the area known as Desert Hills.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 70.8 square miles (183 km2), of which, 70.8 square miles (183 km2) of it is land and 0.01% is water. It includes both Daisy Mountain and Gavilan Peak.
Best Online Paralegal Programs New River AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Best Online Paralegal Programs. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your New River home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in New River AZ.
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