How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Catalina Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Catalina AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Catalina homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Catalina AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Catalina AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address 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.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Catalina AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online 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 quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Catalina AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. 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 significant aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Catalina AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Catalina AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Catalina AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those colleges that are within the Catalina AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Catalina AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Catalina AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Catalina Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Catalina home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Catalina Arizona.