How to Choose the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Coolidge Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Coolidge AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Coolidge residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available 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. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Coolidge AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed 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 functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, 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 Coolidge AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Coolidge AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover 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 sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Coolidge AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Coolidge AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Coolidge AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Coolidge AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing 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 undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Coolidge AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Coolidge AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Coolidge AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Coolidge Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Coolidge home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Coolidge Arizona.