How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Course Near Douglas Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Douglas AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Douglas homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Douglas AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, 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 limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
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. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Douglas AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may 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 an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Douglas AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs 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 quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as 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 ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Douglas AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Douglas AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Douglas AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Douglas AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most 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 region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some 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. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Douglas AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Douglas Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Douglas residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Douglas Arizona.