How to Find the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Fortuna Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fortuna Foothills AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Fortuna Foothills residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fortuna Foothills AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Fortuna Foothills AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Fortuna Foothills AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases 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 internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. 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 disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Fortuna Foothills AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant factors to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, 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 Fortuna Foothills AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Fortuna Foothills AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those colleges that are within the Fortuna Foothills AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 may be available to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Fortuna Foothills AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Fortuna Foothills AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Fortuna Foothills Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies degree program is a crucial 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 at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fortuna Foothills residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Fortuna Foothills Arizona.