How to Choose a Paralegal Program near Mesa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Mesa AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Mesa residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Mesa AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted 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 tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Mesa 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 expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Mesa AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out 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 as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Mesa AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Mesa AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Mesa AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire 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 need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Mesa AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid office to see what is available in Mesa AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Mesa AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Mesa AZ?
If you live near Mesa 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.
Mesa (/ˈmeɪsə/ MAY-sə) is a city in Maricopa County, in the U.S. state of Arizona. It is a suburb located about 20 miles (32 km) east of Phoenix in the East Valley section of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It is bordered by Tempe on the west, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the north, Chandler and Gilbert on the south along with Queen Creek, and Apache Junction on the east.
Mesa is the largest suburban city by population in the United States, the third-largest city in Arizona after Phoenix and Tucson, and the 35th-largest city overall in the US. The city is home to 508,958 people as of 2018 according to the Census Bureau, which makes it more populous than major cities such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, or Miami. Mesa is home to numerous higher education facilities including the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. It is also home to the largest relief airport in the Phoenix area, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which is located in the southeastern corner of the city.
The history of Mesa dates back at least 2,000 years to the arrival of the Hohokam people. The Hohokam, whose name means "All Used Up" or "The Departed Ones", built the original canal system. The canals were the largest and most sophisticated in the prehistoric New World. Some were up to 90 feet (27 m) wide and 10 feet (3.0 m) deep at their head gates, extending for as far as 16 miles (26 km) across the desert. By A.D. 1100 water could be delivered to an area over 110,000 acres (450 km2), transforming the Sonoran Desert into an agricultural oasis. By A.D. 1450, the Hohokam had constructed hundreds of miles of canals many of which are still in use today.
Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Mesa AZ
Selecting the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Mesa residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Mesa AZ.
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