How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Globe Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Globe AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Globe homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions 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 classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Globe AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training 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 opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Globe AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Globe AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Globe AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can 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 start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to 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 distance or online 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. Many Globe AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, 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 Globe AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Globe AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Globe AZ region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, 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 as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Globe AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Globe 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 provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Globe Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies certificate school is an important 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 participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Globe home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Globe Arizona.