How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Casa Grande Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Casa Grande AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Casa Grande homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives 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 responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Casa Grande AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties 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 firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin 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 require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Casa Grande AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable 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 certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Casa Grande AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Casa Grande AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. 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 caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished 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 be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Casa Grande AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Casa Grande AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Casa Grande AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Casa Grande AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Casa Grande Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Casa Grande home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Casa Grande Arizona.