How to Pick the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Florence Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Florence AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Florence homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Florence AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Florence AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Florence AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Florence AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Florence AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Florence AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which 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 offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Florence AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those schools that are within the Florence AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Florence AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Florence AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Florence Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Florence residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Florence Arizona.