How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program 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 satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Green Valley homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same 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 category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Green Valley AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as 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. As an 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 usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. 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 action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Green Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Green Valley AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Green Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare 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 begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might 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 education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Green Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Green Valley AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Green Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Green Valley AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Green Valley AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Green Valley AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Green Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant training school 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Green Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Green Valley Arizona.