How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Catalina Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Catalina Foothills AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Catalina Foothills homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 Catalina Foothills AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Catalina Foothills AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Catalina Foothills AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum 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 reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Catalina Foothills AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 important issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Catalina Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good 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 call several Catalina Foothills AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer 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 an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Catalina Foothills AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher 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 area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Catalina Foothills AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Catalina Foothills AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Catalina Foothills Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Catalina Foothills residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Catalina Foothills Arizona.