How to Select the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Green Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Green Valley AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Green Valley residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Green Valley AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform 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 firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 begin your career as a legal assistant in Green Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 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 might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Green Valley AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Green Valley AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, for instance 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Green Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished 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 practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Green Valley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Green Valley AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Green Valley AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely 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, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Green Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Green Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Green Valley Arizona.