How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Gila Bend Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Gila Bend AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within driving distance of their Gila Bend residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles 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 separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Gila Bend AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice 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 practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted 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 duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Gila Bend AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed 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 career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Gila Bend AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to research as well, including 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 investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Gila Bend AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Gila Bend AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Gila Bend AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Gila Bend AZ region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Gila Bend AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Gila Bend AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools 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 sure 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 disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Gila Bend AZ?
If you live near Gila Bend 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.
Gila Bend, Arizona
Gila Bend (/ˌhiːlə ˈbɛnd/; O'odham: Hila Wi:n), founded in 1872, is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. The town is named for an approximately 90-degree bend in the Gila River, which is near but not precisely at the community's current location. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town is 1,922.
The town of Gila Bend is situated near an ancient Hohokam village. Father Eusebio Francisco Kino was the first European to visit in 1699 on his first journey of exploration to the Colorado River. The Hohokam site along fertile banks of the Gila River had been abandoned and other tribes, lived in the vicinity. 132 Pima people lived in a rancheria called Oyadaibuc or as Kino named it San Felipe y Santiago del Oyadaibuc, near the modern town, and other Pima lived in three rancherias up river to the north mixed with the Cocomaricopa or Opa. During one of his three visits to Gila Bend, Kino counted 960 Opas living in their own rancherias down river to the west of Oyadaibuc as far as a few miles beyond Agua Caliente.:26–27 The Opa and Pima used the flood waters of the river to irrigate their crops. Oyadaibuc was also visited by Juan Bautista de Anza, commander of the Presidio at Tubac and founder of the city of San Francisco, and by Father Francisco Tomas Garces in 1774. As late as the 1820s Maricopa were living at Gila Bend. After the 1820s, the Maricopa, under relentless pressure from the Yuma and other tribes, and population loss from epidemics, had been compelled to leave the Gila Bend and join the Pima in the Middle Gila region. By the time of the California Gold Rush the Maricopa villages, were all located east of the Sierra Estrella, on the Gila River, below the Pima Villages.:111–112
During the Mexican–American War, the expeditions of Kearny (1846), Cooke (1847) and Graham (1847) passed through the area but found no village. Only Graham found corn stubble on the riverside with which to graze his cattle.:21–22 From 1849 what became the Southern Emigrant Trail passed through the area which by 1854 had acquired the name Tezotal or Tesotal, from name of the scientific name of the desert ironwood tree, (Olneya tesota) given it in the botanical report of the Boundary Survey along the Gila River led by William H. Emory.:117,132
Select the Ideal Paralegal Program near Gila Bend AZ
Choosing the right paralegal educational program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Gila Bend home. Paralegal training programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gila Bend AZ.
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