How to Select a Paralegal Program near Fountain Hills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fountain Hills AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Fountain Hills residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives 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 functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Fountain Hills AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might 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 lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because 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 Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Fountain Hills AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Fountain Hills AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fountain Hills AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Fountain Hills AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Fountain Hills AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Fountain Hills AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Fountain Hills AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Fountain Hills AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Fountain Hills AZ?
If you live near Fountain Hills 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.
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Fountain Hills is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. Known for its impressive fountain, once the tallest in the world, it borders on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and Scottsdale, Arizona. The population is 22,489, as of the 2010 census. Between the 1990 and 2000 censuses it was the eighth-fastest-growing place among cities and towns in Arizona.
In the early 1900's, the area that became Fountain Hills and the McDowell Mountain Regional Park was part of the Pemberton Ranch, later renamed the P Bar Ranch. Fountain Hills High School is built on the site of one of the P Bar Ranch's buildings, and a plaque stands in the parking lot to commemorate this.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 18.2 square miles (47.1 km2), of which 18.1 square miles (46.9 km2) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.26 km2) (0.55%) is water.
Select the Right Paralegal College near Fountain Hills AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Fountain Hills home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide 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 opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Fountain Hills AZ.
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