How to Pick the Right Paralegal School Near Coolidge Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Coolidge AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career 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 be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of 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? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Coolidge residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same 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 different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Coolidge AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Coolidge AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Coolidge AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Coolidge AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective 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 crucial issues to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 as well. A number of Coolidge AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Coolidge AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance 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 field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Coolidge AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Coolidge AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Coolidge AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Coolidge Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Coolidge home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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 schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Coolidge Arizona.