How to Select the Right Paralegal School Near Casas Adobes Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Casas Adobes AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Casas Adobes homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take 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
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Casas Adobes AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as 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 may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Casas Adobes AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Casas Adobes AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior 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 compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to research also, such as 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Casas Adobes AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Casas Adobes AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating 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 exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Casas Adobes AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly 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, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Casas Adobes AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Casas Adobes AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Casas Adobes 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 select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Casas Adobes Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Casas Adobes residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Casas Adobes Arizona.