How to Select the Best Paralegal School Near Green Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Green Valley AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Green Valley homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before 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.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Green Valley AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, 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 practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare 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 involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a paralegal in Green Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Green Valley AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Green Valley AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential 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 program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Green Valley AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Green Valley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire 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 want to first consider those colleges that are within the Green Valley AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Green Valley AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Green Valley AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Green Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Green Valley residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Green Valley Arizona.