How to Select 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 important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Catalina Foothills homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, only 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Catalina Foothills AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite 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 applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Catalina Foothills AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies in the field 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Catalina Foothills AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Catalina Foothills AZ area, in addition to 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 certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 important aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Catalina Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Catalina Foothills AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Catalina Foothills AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish 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 reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Catalina Foothills AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Catalina Foothills AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Catalina Foothills AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Catalina Foothills Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Catalina Foothills home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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 schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Catalina Foothills Arizona.