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How to Pick the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Mesa Arizona

Mesa Arizona woman paralegal consulting with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mesa AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Mesa residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, 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 account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Mesa Arizona law books

Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Mesa AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks might include:

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

With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Mesa Arizona male legal assistant speaking on phone taking notes

As we previously covered, 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 opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Mesa AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees

Mesa Arizona woman student enrolled in online paralegal trainingOnline legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Mesa AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary 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 address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive 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 disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.

Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Mesa AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn 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 prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 ultimate selection.

Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 Mesa AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.

What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Mesa AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Mesa AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.

Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Mesa AZ area.

What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Mesa AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Mesa AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.

Learn More About Mesa Paralegal Certificate Programs

Enroll in the Right Mesa Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Mesa home. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different 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 influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Mesa Arizona.


 

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