How to Select a Paralegal Program near Carefree Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Carefree AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Carefree residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s take 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
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable 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 belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Carefree AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon 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, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized 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 functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Carefree AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Carefree AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to research also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Carefree AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Carefree AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Carefree AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Carefree AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Carefree AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Carefree AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Carefree AZ?
If you live near Carefree 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.
Characterised as an upscale residential area, Carefree was conceived in the mid-1950s by business partners K.T. Palmer and Tom Darlington as a master-planned community. Land sales commenced in 1955 and homebuilding started in 1958. Carefree was incorporated in 1984 to avoid annexation by neighboring Scottsdale.
The Carefree sundial, designed by architect Joe Wong and solar engineer John I. Yellott, was erected in the Sundial Circle plaza in 1959 and claims to be the "third largest sundial in the Western Hemisphere". The sundial, which points to the North Star, is made from a steel frame and covered in anodized copper. It measures 90 feet (27 m) in diameter. The metal gnomon, the shadow-casting portion of the dial, stands 35 feet (11 m) above the plaza and extends 72 feet (22 m).
Carefree was the long-time home of Southwestern Studios, originally built in 1968 as Fred Graham Studios by actor, stunt man, and Arizona Film Commissioner Fred Graham. The sprawling 160-acre (0.65 km2) desert property adjacent to North Scottsdale featured three state-of-the-art soundstages, edit bays, 35mm screening room, make-up, production facilities, western street and back lot. In the early 1970s, Stage 1 of the studio was used for The New Dick Van Dyke Show starring Dick Van Dyke, Hope Lange, Fannie Flagg, and Marty Brill. Stage 1 also was used for the filming of one of Orson Welles' last films, The Other Side of the Wind, with John Huston, Oja Kodar, Susan Strasberg, Bob Random and Peter Bogdanovich.
Select the Right Paralegal College near Carefree AZ
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Carefree home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Carefree AZ.
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