How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Fortuna Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fortuna Foothills AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Fortuna Foothills homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fortuna Foothills AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, 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 essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Fortuna Foothills AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Fortuna Foothills AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Fortuna Foothills AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include 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 commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify 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 as well. Numerous Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if 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 offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Fortuna Foothills AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially consider those schools that are within the Fortuna Foothills AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Fortuna Foothills AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Fortuna Foothills AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Fortuna Foothills Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal certificate school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fortuna Foothills home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Fortuna Foothills Arizona.