How to Pick the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Corona De Tucson Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Corona De Tucson AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Corona De Tucson homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Corona De Tucson AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 begin your career as a legal assistant in Corona De Tucson AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Corona De Tucson AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Corona De Tucson AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Corona De Tucson AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Corona De Tucson AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Corona De Tucson AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. 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 schools that are within the Corona De Tucson AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Corona De Tucson AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Corona De Tucson AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Corona De Tucson Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Corona De Tucson home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private 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 program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Corona De Tucson Arizona.