How to Choose a Paralegal Certificate Program near Littlefield Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Littlefield AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Littlefield residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Littlefield AZ attorneys with a diverse array 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 may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay 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 complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed 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 tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Littlefield AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Littlefield AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research also, for instance 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 thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable organization 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Littlefield AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Littlefield AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Littlefield AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial 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 develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Littlefield AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Littlefield AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Littlefield AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to those who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Littlefield AZ?
If you live near Littlefield 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.
Littlefield is an unincorporated community and census-designated place in Mohave County located in the Arizona Strip region of the U.S. state of Arizona. As of the 2010 census, its population was 308. It lies along Interstate 15 approximately 10 miles northeast of Mesquite, Nevada. Littlefield is located in the 86432 zip code.
Littlefield and neighboring Beaver Dam have the distinction of being the only towns in Arizona along I-15. Owing to its location in the Arizona Strip, northwest of Grand Canyon National Park and west of the Virgin River, it is isolated by hundreds of miles from the rest of the state. Travel to other towns within Arizona requires crossing through either Nevada or Utah, or routing through unpaved roads to the rest of Arizona's road network.
Select the Right Paralegal College near Littlefield AZ
Selecting the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Littlefield residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Littlefield AZ.
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