How to Find a Paralegal Certificate Program near Benson Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Benson AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within driving range of their Benson residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives 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 comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Benson AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Benson AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Benson AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Benson AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Benson AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Benson AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those colleges that are within the Benson AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Benson AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Benson AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary 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 a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Benson AZ?
If you live near Benson 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.
Benson is a city in Cochise County, Arizona, United States, 45 miles (72 km) east-southeast of Tucson. It was founded as a rail terminal for the area, and still serves as such. As of the 2010 census, the population of the city was 5,105.
The city was founded in 1880 when the Southern Pacific Railroad came through. It was named after Judge William S. Benson, a friend of Charles Crocker, president of the Southern Pacific. The railroad, coming overland from California, chose the Benson site to cross the San Pedro River. Benson then served as a rail junction point to obtain ore and refined metal by wagon, in turn shipping rail freight back to the mines at Tombstone, Fairbank, Contention City and Bisbee. For example, the railhead in Benson was about 25 miles (40 km) from Tombstone, and was the closest rail connection to it until 1882, when a feeder line was laid from Benson to Contention City.
The railhead in Benson was founded about a mile from a traditional crossing of the upper San Pedro River (known also as the Middle Crossing), used by the Southern Emigrant Trail and San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line. It was the site of the San Pedro Station of the Butterfield Overland Mail and a wagon depot, the San Pedro River Station, run since 1871 by William Ohnesorgen. In 1878 he had erected a toll bridge over which mining supplies were transported to the new mining camps such as Fairbank and Tombstone. Two years later this bridge marked the location of the railroad bridge that became the terminal site of Benson.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Benson AZ
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. 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 Benson residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as 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, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Benson AZ.
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