How to Choose a Paralegal School near Santa Cruz New Mexico
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Santa Cruz NM and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Santa Cruz residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options 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 the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, 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 Santa Cruz NM with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow 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
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Santa Cruz NM paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. 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 action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career in Santa Cruz NM as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in New Mexico to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 school (we will discuss the advantages 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 Santa Cruz NM.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students in Santa Cruz NM searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. 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 disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating Santa Cruz NM area schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Santa Cruz NM law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the Santa Cruz NM paralegal schools you are contemplating. 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 quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Santa Cruz NM legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with New Mexico legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within your Santa Cruz NM local area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Santa Cruz NM. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Santa Cruz NM, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Santa Cruz NM?
Santa Cruz, New Mexico
Santa Cruz is a census-designated place (CDP) in Santa Fe County, New Mexico, United States. It is part of the Santa Fe, New Mexico Metropolitan Statistical Area. The population was 423 at the 2000 census.
The area that was later to be occupied by the village of Santa Cruz de la Cañada is located 25 miles northwest of Santa Fe, New Mexico and a half-mile east of Española, New Mexico at 5,655 feet AMSL, and UTM NAD 83, Z-13S, 404927E, 3983643N in the valley of the Santa Cruz River half-mile from its confluence with the Rio Grande. Upon arrival of Spanish conquistadores in 1540, the Santa Cruz area was inhabited by Tewa speakers (descendants of "Ancestral Puebloans," formerly referred to as "Anasazi"), and after Vargas' "reconquests" (of the Pueblo Revolt) of 1692 and 1696, by southern Tewa (or Tano) who had been relocated from the Galisteo Basin, 45 miles south, as a result of Vargas' Spanish repopulation efforts on behalf of the Spanish Crown. Among the best reference materials for this history is: "The Pueblo Indian Revolt of 1696 and the Franciscan Missions in New Mexico" by J. Manuel Espinosa (1991).
The nearby, and unsuccessful, Spanish colony at San Gabriel established by the explorer Juan de Oñate at Ohkay Owingeh in 1598 produced Spanish haciendas and ranchos in the vicinity. During the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, Hispanic settlers were forced to leave the area. In 1695, following the Reconquest of 1692-1694 and the second Pueblo Revolt in 1696, Governor and Captain General of New Mexico, Don Diego de Vargas reestablished the Hispanic settlement. It was established as a new Spanish villa for those that had arrived from Mexico City as settlers and participants in the military campaigns during the reconquest. It was named Villa Nueva de Santa Cruz de los Españoles Mejicanos del Rey Nuestro Señor Carlos Segundo (The New Town of the Holy Cross of Mexican Spaniards under the King Our Lord Charles II). It later shortened simply to Santa Cruz de la Cañada (la Cañada translates as "a small river or creek valley").
The new Hispanic community was the second villa established by the Spanish in New Mexico and was one of only three established during the colonial period, the first being Santa Fe and the last, Albuquerque. The area surrounding Santa Cruz de la Cañada was described during this period as containing many copious fruit orchards irrigated by the Santa Cruz River and its tributaries.
Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training near Santa Cruz NM
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Santa Cruz home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Santa Cruz NM.
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