How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Fountain Hills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fountain Hills AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Fountain Hills residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's take 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
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Fountain Hills AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing 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 maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Fountain Hills AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 program (we will discuss 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.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Fountain Hills AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Fountain Hills AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fountain Hills AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Fountain Hills 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 though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Fountain Hills AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering 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 profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out 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 sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. 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 may need to first consider those schools that are within the Fountain Hills AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Fountain Hills AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fountain Hills AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Fountain Hills Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Fountain Hills home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fountain Hills Arizona.