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How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Mesa Arizona

Mesa Arizona female paralegal speaking with client on phoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Mesa AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Mesa homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Mesa Arizona law library

Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Mesa AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their regular activities may involve:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
  • Assisting attorneys get ready 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 involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Education and Certification

Mesa Arizona male legal assistant speaking on cellphone taking notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Mesa AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses

Mesa Arizona female student enrolled in paralegal online classesParalegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Mesa AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.

What to Ask Paralegal Colleges

Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Mesa AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.

Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Mesa AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.

What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Mesa AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Mesa AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.

Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Mesa AZ area.

How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Mesa AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Mesa AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.

Learn More About Mesa Online Paralegal Studies

Choose the Right Mesa Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Mesa residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Mesa Arizona.


 

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