How to Select the Right Paralegal Course 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 profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Casa Grande homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable 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 are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Casa Grande AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Casa Grande AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the profession 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 two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Casa Grande AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Casa Grande AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized 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 online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Casa Grande AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need 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 services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Casa Grande AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Casa Grande AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire 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 wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Casa Grande AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Casa Grande AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend 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 sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Casa Grande Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant certificate school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed 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 academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Casa Grande Arizona.