How to Pick a Paralegal Training Program near Duncan Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Duncan AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Duncan homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Duncan AZ attorneys 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 based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main 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 volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly 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 start your career as a paralegal in Duncan AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Duncan AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can 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 prospective 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 critical factors to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Duncan AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Duncan AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Duncan AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those schools that are within the Duncan AZ region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Duncan AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Duncan AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Duncan AZ?
If you live near Duncan 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.
Duncan is in the Gila River valley, 4 miles (6 km) west of the Arizona-New Mexico border. The town limits are on both sides of the Gila, but the primary portion of the town and the entire downtown area lie on the south side of the river. Duncan was founded in the mid 19th century, and the land was added to the United States as a part of the Mexican Cession. The town of Duncan has been destroyed twice by flood and once by fire.
The town and area are primarily populated by ranchers and miners (especially from the Freeport-McMoran copper mines in southeastern Arizona and southwestern New Mexico). Surrounding smaller towns such as Franklin and York in Arizona and Virden, New Mexico, use Duncan public works and public schools. The Duncan area along the Gila River is renowned for Native American artifacts such as arrow heads, pottery, burial sites, cave paintings and other remnants of the Anasazi and other pre-historic cultures, as well as artifacts from garrison camps of the expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado.
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor was born in El Paso, Texas, but grew up near Duncan on the Lazy B ranch, which straddles the border between Arizona and New Mexico. The Day family ran the ranch for many years until selling it; it continues to be run as a ranch. O'Connor later wrote a book titled Lazy B: Growing up on a Cattle Ranch in the American Southwest about her childhood experiences on the ranch with her brother H. Alan Day.
Choose the Best Paralegal School near Duncan AZ
Choosing the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step toward 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Duncan home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Duncan AZ.
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