How to Find the Right Legal Assistant Degree Program near Mesa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Mesa AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require 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 at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Mesa homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just 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 help Mesa AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable 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 have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Mesa AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since 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 know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to research as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Mesa AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
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 specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Mesa AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Mesa AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent 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 School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Mesa AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, 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 as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Mesa AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Mesa AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Attending a Paralegal School near Mesa AZ?
If you live near Mesa 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.
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.
Paralegal Certification Training Programs Mesa AZ
Choosing the right paralegal certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. You originally came to this website because you had an interest in getting more information about Paralegal Certification Training Programs. But as we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Mesa residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private 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 prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Mesa AZ.
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