How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Mayer Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mayer AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Mayer residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Mayer AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Mayer AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Mayer AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose 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 receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Mayer AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Mayer AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Mayer AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain 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 might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Mayer AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Mayer AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Mayer AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, 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 quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Mayer AZ?
If you live near Mayer 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.
Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Mayer AZ
Enrolling in the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Mayer residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Mayer AZ.
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