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How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Fountain Hills Arizona

Fountain Hills Arizona woman paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Fountain Hills AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Fountain Hills residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Paralegals and Legal Assistants

Fountain Hills Arizona law library

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just 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 Fountain Hills AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records

With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Fountain Hills Arizona male legal assistant speaking on cellphone taking notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Fountain Hills AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs

Fountain Hills Arizona woman student attending paralegal online coursesOnline legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Fountain Hills AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.

Things to Ask Paralegal Programs

Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Fountain Hills AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can 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 many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Fountain Hills AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.

What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Fountain Hills AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Fountain Hills AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.

Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. 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 first look at those schools that are within the Fountain Hills AZ area.

What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available 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 available in Fountain Hills AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Fountain Hills AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Fountain Hills Online Paralegal Courses

Choose the Best Fountain Hills Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Fountain Hills residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education 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 ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fountain Hills Arizona.


 

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