How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Fortuna Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fortuna Foothills AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Fortuna Foothills homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices 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 roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, 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 lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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 ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Fortuna Foothills AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Fortuna Foothills AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fortuna Foothills AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Fortuna Foothills AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Fortuna Foothills AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Fortuna Foothills AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Fortuna Foothills AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fortuna Foothills AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Fortuna Foothills Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Fortuna Foothills home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fortuna Foothills Arizona.