How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Catalina Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Catalina Foothills AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Catalina Foothills homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Catalina Foothills AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps 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 paralegal in Catalina Foothills AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Catalina Foothills AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Catalina Foothills AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization 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 targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Catalina Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Catalina Foothills AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Catalina Foothills AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement 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 well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Catalina Foothills AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Catalina Foothills AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Catalina Foothills AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Catalina Foothills Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Catalina Foothills residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Catalina Foothills Arizona.