Home >> Arizona >> Mesa >> Paralegal Certificate


Request Free Information on Paralegal Schools Mesa AZ 85142

How to Pick the Right Paralegal Program Near Mesa Arizona

Mesa Arizona female paralegal speaking with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mesa AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Mesa homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Mesa Arizona law books

Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Mesa AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday activities might involve:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Researching pertinent laws and cases
  • Drafting correspondence and legal documents
  • Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
  • Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
  • Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Training and Certification

Mesa Arizona male paralegal on phone writing notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Mesa AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in 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 might choose to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools

Mesa Arizona woman student enrolled in online paralegal coursesOnline paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Mesa AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.

Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges

Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Mesa 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 particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 crucial aspects to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.

Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. 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 as well. Numerous Mesa AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Mesa AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Mesa AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Mesa AZ region.

What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Mesa AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Mesa AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Mesa Online Paralegal Degree Programs

Choose the Right Mesa Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Choosing the best legal assistant certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Mesa residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Mesa Arizona.


 

Mesa Paralegal Schools | Main | Mesa Paralegal Studies