How to Choose a Paralegal College near Willcox Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Willcox AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you locate 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 more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Willcox homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, 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.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 assist lawyers in Willcox AZ with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Willcox AZ paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career in Willcox AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Willcox AZ.
Online Paralegal Training
Online paralegal schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for individuals in Willcox AZ looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs 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 certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Willcox AZ area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out 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 many 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 crucial aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several 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 pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Willcox AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the Willcox AZ paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Willcox AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within your Willcox AZ local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Willcox AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Willcox AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Willcox AZ?
Originally known as "Maley", the town was founded in 1880 as a whistlestop on the Southern Pacific Railroad. It was renamed in honor of a visit by General Orlando B. Willcox in 1889. In the early 20th century, Willcox had the distinction of being a national leader in cattle production. Agriculture remains important to the local economy, but Interstate 10 has replaced the railroad as the major transportation link, and much of the economy is now tied to the highway, which runs immediately north of the town.
Willcox is the birthplace of Rex Allen, known as "The Arizona Cowboy", who wrote and recorded many songs, starred in several Westerns during the early 1950s and in the syndicated television series Frontier Doctor (1958–1959). Willcox was among the locations of 26 Men (1957–1959), another syndicated series that depicted true stories of the Arizona Rangers starring Tristram Coffin and Kelo Henderson.
Willcox is located in northern Cochise County at 32°15′20″N 109°50′8″W / 32.25556°N 109.83556°W / 32.25556; -109.83556 (32.255622, -109.835520) in the Sulphur Springs Valley. Interstate 10 serves the city with three exits and leads 35 miles (56 km) southwest to Benson, Arizona, and 74 miles (119 km) east to Lordsburg, New Mexico.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.3 square miles (16.3 km2), of which 6.1 square miles (15.9 km2) is land and 0.12 square miles (0.3 km2), or 2.13%, is water.
Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Willcox AZ
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Willcox home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Willcox AZ.
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