How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Bisbee Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Bisbee AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Bisbee residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Bisbee AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring files 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 lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Bisbee AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Bisbee AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of 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 crucial aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Bisbee AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Bisbee AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer 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 an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Bisbee AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Bisbee AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Bisbee AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Bisbee AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Bisbee AZ?
If you live near Bisbee 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.
Bisbee is a U.S. city in Cochise County, Arizona, 92 miles (148 km) southeast of Tucson. According to the 2010 census, the population of the city was 5,575. The city is the county seat of Cochise County.
Mining in the Mule Mountains proved quite successful: in the early 20th century the population of Bisbee soared. Incorporated in 1902, by 1910 its population had swelled to 9,019, and it sported a constellation of suburbs, including Warren, Lowell, and San Jose, some of which had been founded on their own (ultimately less successful) mines. In 1917, open-pit mining was successfully introduced to meet the copper demand during World War I.
A high quality turquoise promoted as Bisbee Blue was a by-product of the copper mining. Many high-quality mineral specimens have come from Bisbee area mines and are to be found in museum collections worldwide. Some of these minerals include cuprite, aragonite, wulfenite, malachite, azurite, and galena.
Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Bisbee AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Bisbee residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Bisbee AZ.
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