How to Enroll in the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Pima Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pima AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Pima homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Pima AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Pima AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide 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, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Pima AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Pima AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Pima AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Pima AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. 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 initially consider those colleges that are within the Pima AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is offered in Pima AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Pima AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum 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 thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Pima AZ?
If you live near Pima Arizona or perhaps are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Pima County, Arizona
Pima County /ˈpiːmə/ is a county in the south central region of the U.S. state of Arizona. As of the 2010 census, the population was 980,263, making it Arizona's second-most populous county. The county seat is Tucson, where nearly all of the population is centered. The county is named after the Pima Native Americans who are indigenous to this area.
Pima County contains parts of the Tohono O'odham Nation, as well as all of the San Xavier Indian Reservation, the Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Ironwood Forest National Monument and Saguaro National Park.
The vast majority of the county population lies in and around the city of Tucson (2011 city population: 525,796), filling much of the eastern part of the county with urban development. Tucson, Arizona's second largest city, is a major commercial and academic center. Other urban areas include the Tucson suburbs of Oro Valley (population 41,335), Marana (population 35,232), Sahuarita (population 25,458), and South Tucson (population 5,695), a large ring of unincorporated urban development, and the growing satellite town Green Valley. The rest of the county is sparsely populated; the largest towns are Sells, the capital of the Tohono O'odham Nation, and Ajo in the county's far western region.
Online Paralegal Certificate Programs Pima AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Online Paralegal Certificate Programs. But as we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Pima residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Pima AZ.
Other Arizona Locations That May Be Of Interest
Bing: Arizona Paralegal Certificate Schools Search results
Paralegal Studies | California State University, East Bay
She also teaches the Introduction to Paralegalism class. Thornberry currently works as a real estate paralegal in a land development business. She is also a licensed realtor. Thornberry previously worked for the law firm of Burnham and Brown. Thornberry earned her Paralegal Certificate from California State University, East Bay in 1993.
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Paralegal Salary and Outlook by State
As you plan your paralegal career, you should consider the following areas that may contribute to your earning potential.. Education. Paralegal salary can be influenced by their education level. According to O*NET OnLine, 34% of job incumbents and subject matter experts reported that a bachelor’s degree is needed for paralegals; 50% reported that paralegals should have an associate’s ...