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How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Doney Park Arizona

Doney Park Arizona female paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations 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 crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Doney Park homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Doney Park Arizona law library

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Doney Park AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties 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 files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties 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
  • Researching relevant cases and laws
  • Drafting correspondence and legal papers
  • Filing 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 responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Doney Park Arizona male legal assistant speaking on phone writing notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Doney Park AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees

Doney Park Arizona female student attending paralegal online classesLegal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Doney Park AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Colleges

Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Doney Park AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 also. Numerous Doney Park AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Doney Park AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Doney Park AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish 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 wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Doney Park AZ region.

How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Doney Park AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. 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, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.

Find Out More About Doney Park Paralegal Courses

Enroll in the Right Doney Park Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Doney Park residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, 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 education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Doney Park Arizona.


 

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