How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Casa Grande Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Casa Grande AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Casa Grande homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost 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 school need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Casa Grande AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Casa Grande AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 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 paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Casa Grande AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Casa Grande AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Casa Grande AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular 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. Verifying that the school you select 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Casa Grande AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Casa Grande AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering 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 undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Casa Grande AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Casa Grande AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Casa Grande AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Casa Grande Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Casa Grande residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school 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 schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Casa Grande Arizona.