How to Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Casa Grande Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Casa Grande AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Casa Grande homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available 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. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Casa Grande AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Casa Grande AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Casa Grande AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Casa Grande AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 already covered, there are other significant issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Casa Grande AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Casa Grande AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Casa Grande AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Casa Grande AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Casa Grande AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Casa Grande 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 enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Casa Grande Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Casa Grande home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Casa Grande Arizona.