How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Green Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Green Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Green Valley residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Green Valley AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. 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 administrative or clerical duties more apropos 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, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch 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. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining 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 Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Green Valley AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered 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 degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to 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 distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Green Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Green Valley AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Green Valley AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire 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 wish to first look at those schools that are within the Green Valley AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Green Valley AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Green Valley AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, 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 process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Green Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Green Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Green Valley Arizona.