How to Find the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Casas Adobes Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Casas Adobes AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Casas Adobes residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Casas Adobes AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Casas Adobes AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Casas Adobes AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Casas Adobes AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Casas Adobes AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession 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 choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Casas Adobes AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Casas Adobes AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Casas Adobes AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools 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. Don't forget to add 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 expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Casas Adobes AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Casas Adobes AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Casas Adobes Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal training school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Casas Adobes residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Casas Adobes Arizona.