How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Doney Park Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Doney Park AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best 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 increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Doney Park homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives 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 positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Doney Park AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney'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 varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Doney Park AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Doney Park AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Doney Park AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the schools 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 school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Doney Park AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Doney Park AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Doney Park AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Doney Park AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Doney Park AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Doney Park 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 choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Doney Park Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Doney Park home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Doney Park Arizona.