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How to Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near Marana Arizona

Marana Arizona woman paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Marana AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Marana residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Marana Arizona law library

Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just 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 Marana AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities can involve:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.

Paralegal Education and Certification

Marana Arizona male paralegal on phone writing notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are basically 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 quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Marana AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training

Marana Arizona female student attending online paralegal classesParalegal and legal assistant online programs have become more common and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Marana AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.

Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Marana AZ area, as well as 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 many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant aspects to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Marana AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Marana AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Marana AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.

Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Marana AZ region.

How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Marana AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Marana AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Marana Paralegal Classes

Enroll in the Right Marana Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Marana home. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Marana Arizona.


 

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