How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Flagstaff Arizona
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Flagstaff AZ and begin your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by trying to find paralegal schools within traveling range of their Flagstaff residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Flagstaff AZ with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Flagstaff AZ paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 means to launch your career in Flagstaff AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Flagstaff AZ.
Online Paralegal Schools
Paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals in Flagstaff AZ searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Flagstaff AZ area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency 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 learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Flagstaff AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Flagstaff AZ paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Flagstaff AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within your Flagstaff AZ local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Flagstaff AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Flagstaff AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Flagstaff AZ?
Flagstaff is a city in and the county seat of Coconino County in northern Arizona, in the southwestern United States. In 2015, the city's estimated population was 70,320. Flagstaff's combined metropolitan area has an estimated population of 139,097. The city is named after a ponderosa pine flagpole made by a scouting party from Boston (known as the "Second Boston Party") to celebrate the United States Centennial on July 4, 1876.
Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous ponderosa pine forest in the continental United States. Flagstaff is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.
Flagstaff's early economy was based on the lumber, railroad, and ranching industries. Today, the city remains an important distribution hub for companies such as Nestlé Purina PetCare, and is home to Lowell Observatory, The U.S. Naval Observatory, the United States Geological Survey Flagstaff Station, and Northern Arizona University. Flagstaff has a strong tourism sector, due to its proximity to Grand Canyon National Park, Oak Creek Canyon, the Arizona Snowbowl, Meteor Crater, and historic Route 66. The city is also a center for medical device manufacturing, since Flagstaff is home to W. L. Gore and Associates.
There exist several stories and legends regarding the origin of the city's name. Surveyors, prospectors, and investors had traveled through the area in the mid- to late-19th century, and the act of stripping a pine tree to fly an American flag has been attributed to several individuals over the course of a twenty-year span. It is said that, because of the flag that was raised, the area surrounding it became known as Flagstaff.
Find the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Flagstaff AZ
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 Flagstaff home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several 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 selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Flagstaff AZ.
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