How to Choose the Right Paralegal Program Near Douglas Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Douglas AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Douglas residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered 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, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Douglas AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers 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 job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Douglas AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Douglas AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Douglas AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly 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 begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial factors to think about as well, such as 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 researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Douglas AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field 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 pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Douglas AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Douglas AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want 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 might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Douglas AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost 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 add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Douglas AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Douglas AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Douglas Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best legal assistant certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Douglas home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice 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 opportunity to succeed 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 presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Douglas Arizona.