How to Select a Paralegal Program near Marana Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Marana AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Marana homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Marana AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos 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 have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Marana AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, 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 can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Marana AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to research also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Marana AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Marana 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 among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Marana AZ legal field. 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 upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Marana AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is available in Marana AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Marana AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more available and may be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Marana AZ?
If you live near Marana 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.
Marana is a town in Pima County, Arizona, located northwest of Tucson, with a small portion in Pinal County. According to the 2010 census, the population of the town is 34,961. Marana was the fourth fastest-growing place among all cities and towns in Arizona of any size from 1990 to 2000.
According to historian David Leighton, the first member of the Anway family in the Tucson area was Charles B. Anway, who arrived as a result of contracting tuberculosis. In 1919, brother William and his two children Louis and Ila arrived in town but they decided to settle in an area northwest of Tucson called Postvale, Arizona. In 1920, William who had been widowed for many years married Orpha Ralston, who was a member for many years in the Postvale Co-operative Women's Club. This club was involved in getting the local post office renamed from Postvale to the area's first known name Marana and in time the town name became Marana.
The southern portion of Marana has grown considerably since the early 1990s with the addition of businesses and some housing, much of it due to annexation of existing unincorporated areas. In 1992, the Marana Town Council voted to annex an area of unincorporated Pima County that was located to the southeast of the town limits. The area selected was a narrow corridor of land that snaked its way south along Interstate 10, then to the east along Ina Road, and then south along Thornydale Road. These areas were mainly high density commercial businesses and shopping centers, including large retailers such as Super KMart (now closed), Costco Wholesale, Target, and Home Depot. The areas were selected by Marana to be annexed, by their own admission, for their sales tax revenue. The large residential areas behind these commercial areas were not annexed. As a result, the city of Tucson filed a lawsuit in the Superior Court of the State of Arizona in and for the County of Pima (City of Tucson v Town of Marana) claiming that Marana illegally annexed the unincorporated areas in violation of existing state laws. However, on April 4, 1994, Judge Lina Rodriguez ruled in favor of Marana, allowing the annexation to stand. Following this suit, the Arizona State annexation laws were changed, forbidding municipalities from annexing small strips of land without taking large surrounding parcels as well. A "strip annexation" is no longer allowed under Arizona law.
Find the Right Paralegal Certificate Program near Marana AZ
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Marana residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, 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 impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Marana AZ.
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