How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Catalina Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Catalina AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Catalina homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Catalina AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level 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 work, but some of their everyday activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
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 quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Catalina AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Catalina AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure 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 reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Catalina AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Catalina AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Catalina AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Catalina AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial 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. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Catalina AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Catalina AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Catalina AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Catalina Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 comfort and privacy of your Catalina residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Catalina Arizona.