How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Marana Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Marana AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Marana homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Marana AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs 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 academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Marana AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Marana AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more 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 reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Marana AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over 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 choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Marana AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Marana AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Marana AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running 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 placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Marana AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Marana AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Marana AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Marana Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal certificate program is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Marana home. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Marana Arizona.