How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Marana Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Marana AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Marana homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Marana AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Marana AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Marana AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program 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 structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could 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 educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Marana AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation 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 effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization 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 focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Marana AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Marana AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Marana AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate 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 obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Marana AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Marana AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Marana Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Marana home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Marana Arizona.