How to Pick a Paralegal Program near Lakeside Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Lakeside AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Lakeside homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, 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 lawyers in Lakeside AZ with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by 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 regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Lakeside AZ paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Lakeside AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Lakeside AZ.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online schools have become more common and can be a good option for students in Lakeside AZ looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of evaluating Lakeside AZ area schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, 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 if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Lakeside AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Lakeside AZ paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, 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 call some law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Lakeside AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within your Lakeside AZ local region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Lakeside AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Lakeside AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Lakeside AZ?
Pinetop–Lakeside is a small town in Navajo County, Arizona, United States. According to 2010 census, the population of the town is 4,282. It was founded in 1984 when the neighboring towns of Pinetop and Lakeside merged.
Pinetop–Lakeside is a popular summer resort and second-home area for Arizona desert residents. In 2002, a large forest fire, the Rodeo-Chediski fire, threatened the town and forced an evacuation. The town is near extensive forests, and in normal times is a popular recreational area.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 11.3 square miles (29 km2), of which, 11.3 square miles (29 km2) of it is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) of it (0.71%) is water.
As of the census of 2000, there were 3,582 people, 1,436 households, and 1,020 families residing in the town. The population density was 318.1 people per square mile (122.8/km²). There were 2,750 housing units at an average density of 244.2 per square mile (94.3/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 89.17% White, 1.03% Black or African American, 2.29% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 4.61% from other races, and 2.54% from two or more races. 11.36% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
Select the Right Paralegal Program near Lakeside AZ
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Lakeside home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, 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 profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Lakeside AZ.
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