How to Choose the Best Paralegal Program Near Catalina Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Catalina Foothills AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, 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. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Catalina Foothills residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Catalina Foothills AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Catalina Foothills AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning 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 Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Catalina Foothills AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools 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 caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Catalina Foothills AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must 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 also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable 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 targets 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Catalina Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Catalina Foothills AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear 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 School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Catalina Foothills AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those schools that are within the Catalina Foothills AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Catalina Foothills AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Catalina Foothills AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Catalina Foothills Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Catalina Foothills home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Catalina Foothills Arizona.