How to Find the Right Paralegal School Near Green Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Green Valley AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Green Valley residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Green Valley AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Green Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning 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 Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Green Valley AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee 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 respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Green Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Green Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Green Valley AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Green Valley AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Green Valley AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Green Valley AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Green Valley AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Green Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Green Valley home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Green Valley Arizona.