How to Choose the Best Paralegal School Near Douglas Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Douglas AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Douglas residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, only 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Douglas AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos 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 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 Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Douglas AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Douglas AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Douglas AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Douglas AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Douglas AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Douglas AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Douglas AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Douglas AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Douglas AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Douglas Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Douglas home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Douglas Arizona.