How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Douglas Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Douglas AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Douglas residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold 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 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 particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Douglas AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Douglas AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Douglas AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly 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 reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets 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 establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous 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 accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Douglas AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Douglas AZ legal community. Find out 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 provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Douglas AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Douglas AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Douglas AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Douglas Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, 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 lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Douglas Arizona.