How to Find a Paralegal Program near Coolidge Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Coolidge AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Coolidge residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential 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 choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles 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 category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Coolidge AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’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 varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting 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 rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more applicable 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Coolidge AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Coolidge AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee 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 as well. A number of Coolidge AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Coolidge AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Coolidge AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within the Coolidge AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. 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 as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Coolidge AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Coolidge 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. Last, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized 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 obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Coolidge AZ?
If you live near Coolidge 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.
Coolidge is home of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The monument was the first historic site to receive protected status by the United States Government in 1892. The ancient city was built about 1200 AD. by the Hohokam people.
Coolidge is located at 32°58′38″N 111°31′23″W / 32.97722°N 111.52306°W / 32.97722; -111.52306 (32.977105, -111.522933). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.0 square miles (13 km2), all of it land.
Arizona Highway 87 and Arizona Highway 287 pass through the town. Coolidge is 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Phoenix, and 69 miles (111 km) northwest of Tucson. It is 21 miles (34 km) northeast of Casa Grande and 11 miles southwest of Florence. Picacho Reservoir is just 11 miles (18 km) south of town.
Choose the Best Paralegal School near Coolidge AZ
Choosing the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Coolidge home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Coolidge AZ.
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