How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate 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 satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Douglas homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available 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 responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Douglas AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Douglas AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of 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 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Douglas AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address 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 school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Douglas AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Douglas AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent 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 a few Douglas AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Douglas AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Douglas AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Douglas AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Douglas AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Douglas Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Douglas residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Douglas Arizona.