How to Select the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Cochise Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Cochise AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, 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. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Cochise homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Cochise AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Cochise AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Cochise AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Cochise AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose 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 Cochise AZ law practices 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 ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Cochise AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose 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 may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Cochise AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Cochise AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Cochise AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized 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 ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Cochise AZ?
If you live near Cochise Arizona or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Cochise County, Arizona
In 1528 Spanish Explorers: Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Estevanico, and Fray Marcos de Niza survived a shipwreck off Texas coast. Captured by Native Americans they spent 8 years finding their way back to Mexico City, via the San Pedro Valley. Their journals, maps, and stories lead to the Cibola, seven cities of gold myth. The Expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1539 using it as his route north through what they called the Guachuca Mountains of Pima (Tohono O'odham) lands and later part of the mission routes north, but was actually occupied by the Sobaipuri descendants of the Hohokam. They found a large Pueblo (described as a small city) between Benson and Whetstone, and several smaller satellite villages and smaller pueblos including ones on Fort Huachuca, Huachuca City and North Eastern Fry. About 1657 Father Kino visited the Sobaipuris just before the Apache forced most from the valley, as they were struggling to survive due to increasing Chiricahua Apache attacks as they moved into the area of Texas Canyon in the Dragoon Mountains. In 1776 The Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrante was founded on the West bank of the San Pedro River, to protect the natives as well as the Spanish settlers who supplied the mission stations, but it was chronically short on provisions from raids, and lack of personnel to adequately patrol the eastern route due to wars with France and England, so the main route north shifted west to the Santa Cruz valley, farther from the Chiricahua Apache's ranges who almost exclusively controlled the area by 1821.
Cochise County was created on February 1, 1881, out of the eastern portion of Pima County. It took its name from the legendary Chiricahua Apache war chief Cochise. The county seat was Tombstone until 1929 when it moved to Bisbee. Notable men who once held the position of County Sheriff were Johnny Behan, who served as the first sheriff of the new county, and who was one of the main characters during the events leading to and following the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Later, in 1886, Texas John Slaughter became sheriff. Lawman Jeff Milton and lawman/outlaw Burt Alvord both served as deputies under Slaughter.
A syndicated television series which aired from 1956 to 1958, Sheriff of Cochise starring John Bromfield, was filmed in Bisbee. The Jimmy Stewart movie Broken Arrow and subsequent television show of the same name starring John Lupton, which also aired from 1956 to 1958, took place (but was not filmed) in Cochise County.
Online Legal Assistant Programs Cochise AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Online Legal Assistant Programs. But as we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Cochise residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given 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 no matter how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Cochise AZ.
Other Arizona Locations That May Be Of Interest