How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Marana Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Marana AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Marana residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist 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 duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Marana AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Marana AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Marana AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to consider as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get 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 receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Marana AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Marana AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Marana AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Marana AZ region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include 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 department to find out what is available in Marana AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Marana AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Marana Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Marana home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Marana Arizona.