How to Pick the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Florence Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Florence AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Florence homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must 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 before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Florence AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree 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 are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, 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 restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly 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 handle a much larger volume 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Florence AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Florence AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Florence AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential 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 critical aspects to research also, including 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 properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Florence AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program 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 Florence AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance 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 Florence AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish 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 wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Florence AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Florence AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Florence AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Florence Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Florence residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Florence Arizona.