How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Catalina Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Catalina AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive 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 more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Catalina homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options 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 the same 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 separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Catalina AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education 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 educational prerequisites 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 may involve as little as 6 months to complete. Many 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 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Catalina AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Catalina AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential 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 significant aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Catalina AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need 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. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Catalina AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Catalina AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Catalina AZ region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Catalina AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Catalina AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Catalina Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying 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 residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Catalina Arizona.