How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Fortuna Foothills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fortuna Foothills AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Fortuna Foothills homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Fortuna Foothills AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Fortuna Foothills AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Fortuna Foothills AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Fortuna Foothills AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected 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 help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Fortuna Foothills AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. 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 graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to initially consider those schools that are within the Fortuna Foothills AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Fortuna Foothills AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Fortuna Foothills AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Fortuna Foothills Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, 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 academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice 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 programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fortuna Foothills Arizona.