How to Pick a Paralegal Certificate Program near Yuma Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Yuma AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require 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 becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Yuma homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available 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 hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Yuma AZ with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring 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 lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a Yuma AZ paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, 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 confined to administrative or clerical tasks 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 preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Yuma AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Yuma AZ.
Online Paralegal Training
Online paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for students in Yuma AZ searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to individuals who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing Yuma AZ area schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Yuma AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Yuma AZ paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, 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 some law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Yuma AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within your Yuma AZ local area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Yuma AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Yuma AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Yuma AZ?
Yuma (Cocopah: Yuum) is a city in and the county seat of Yuma County, Arizona, United States. It is located in the southwestern corner of the state, and the population of the city was 93,064 at the 2010 census, up from the 2000 census population of 77,515.
Yuma is the principal city of the Yuma, Arizona Metropolitan Statistical Area, which consists of Yuma County. According to the United States Census Bureau, the 2014 estimated population of the Yuma MSA is 203,247. More than 85,000 retirees make Yuma their winter residence.
In 1540, Spanish colonial expeditions under Hernando de Alarcon and Melchior Diaz visited the area and immediately recognized the natural crossing of the Colorado River as an ideal spot for a city. The Colorado River narrows to slightly under 1,000 feet wide in one area. Military expeditions that crossed the Colorado River at the Yuma Crossing include Juan Bautista de Anza (1774), the Mormon Battalion (1848) and the California Column (1862).
During and after the California Gold Rush to the late 1870s, the Yuma Crossing was known for its ferry crossings for the Southern Emigrant Trail. This was considered the gateway to California, as it was one of the few natural spots where travelers could cross the otherwise very wide Colorado River.
Select the Right Paralegal School near Yuma AZ
Enrolling in the right paralegal educational program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered 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 Yuma home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Yuma AZ.
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