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How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Doney Park Arizona

Doney Park Arizona female paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Doney Park AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive 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 increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Doney Park residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Doney Park Arizona legal books

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Doney Park AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
  • Composing correspondence and legal papers
  • Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records

With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly 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 alone.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Doney Park Arizona male paralegal speaking on cellphone taking notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Doney Park AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees

Doney Park Arizona female student attending online paralegal coursesOnline legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Doney Park AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.

Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Doney Park 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 if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to research 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a recognized 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 focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Doney Park AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.

What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Doney Park AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Doney Park AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Doney Park AZ region.

How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Doney Park AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Doney Park AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.

Learn More About Doney Park Online Paralegal Degree Programs

Enroll in the Best Doney Park Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Choosing the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Doney Park residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance 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 furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Doney Park Arizona.


 

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