How to Select the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Casa Grande Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Casa Grande AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Casa Grande homes. Of those options, they try to find 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 must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Casa Grande AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Casa Grande AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Casa Grande AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Casa Grande AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Casa Grande AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Casa Grande AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Casa Grande AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Casa Grande AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Casa Grande AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Casa Grande AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Casa Grande Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Casa Grande residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and 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 opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Casa Grande Arizona.