How to Select a Paralegal School near Catalina Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Catalina AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Catalina homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting 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 on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Catalina AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Catalina AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Catalina AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Catalina AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Catalina AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Catalina AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Catalina AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Catalina AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Catalina AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Catalina AZ?
If you live near Catalina AZ or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Catalina is a census-designated place (CDP) in Pima County, Arizona, United States. The population was 7,025 at the 2000 census. Catalina continues to experience increasing population growth, while attempting to maintain its rural character. Catalina remains an unincorporated community, with no plans for annexation into any nearby towns.
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,025 people, 2,567 households, and 1,899 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 506.6 people per square mile (195.6/km²). There were 2,755 housing units at an average density of 198.7/sq mi (76.7/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 85.21% White, 0.54% Black or African American, 1.44% Native American, 0.40% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 9.71% from other races, and 2.55% from two or more races. 23.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 2,567 households out of which 33.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 58.2% were married couples living together, 10.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.0% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 8.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.67 and the average family size was 3.05.
Select the Best Legal Assistant School near Catalina AZ
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Catalina home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Catalina AZ.
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