How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal 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 result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Fortuna Foothills homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Fortuna Foothills AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their everyday tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 start your career as a paralegal in Fortuna Foothills AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available 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 obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available 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 so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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. A number of Fortuna Foothills AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Fortuna Foothills AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Fortuna Foothills AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first consider those schools that are within the Fortuna Foothills AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Fortuna Foothills AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fortuna Foothills AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Fortuna Foothills Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fortuna Foothills home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fortuna Foothills Arizona.