How to Choose the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Coolidge Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Coolidge AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Coolidge homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Coolidge AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, 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 may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training 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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Coolidge AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 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 earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and get 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. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Coolidge AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective 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 important aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Coolidge AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Coolidge AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Coolidge AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success 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 well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those colleges that are within the Coolidge AZ region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Coolidge AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Coolidge AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more common and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss 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 reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the right option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Coolidge AZ?
If you live near Coolidge 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.
Coolidge is home of the Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The monument was the first historic site to receive protected status by the United States Government in 1892. Coolidge is home to Central Arizona College.
Coolidge is located at 32°58′38″N 111°31′23″W / 32.97722°N 111.52306°W / 32.97722; -111.52306 (32.977105, -111.522933). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 5.0 square miles (13 km2), all of it land.
Arizona Highway 87 and Arizona Highway 287 pass through the town. Coolidge is 56 miles (90 km) southeast of Phoenix, and 69 miles (111 km) northwest of Tucson. It is 21 miles (34 km) northeast of Casa Grande and 11 miles southwest of Florence. Picacho Reservoir is just 11 miles (18 km) south of town.
Schooling For A Paralegal Coolidge AZ
Selecting the best paralegal studies degree 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 Schooling For A Paralegal. But as we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Coolidge residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program 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 programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Coolidge AZ.
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