How to Find a Paralegal School near Florence Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Florence AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Florence homes. Of those choices, they look for 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 must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Florence AZ lawyers with a wide variety 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 work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex 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 action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Florence AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Florence AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially 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 begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Florence AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 call a few Florence AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though 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 offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Florence AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community 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 want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Florence AZ area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Florence AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Florence 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. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Florence AZ?
If you live near Florence 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.
Florence (O'odham: S-auppag) is a town, 61 miles (98 km) southeast of Phoenix, in Pinal County, Arizona, United States. Florence, which is the county seat of Pinal County, is one of the oldest towns in that county and is regarded as a National Historic District with over 25 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The population of Florence was 30,770 at the 2015 census.
The area where the current town of Florence is located was once inhabited by the members of the Athabascans, ancestors of the San Carlos Apache tribe. Prior to the establishment of the town, the Gila River served as a part of the border between the United States and Mexico. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase extended American territory well south of the Gila.
Levi Ruggles, a veteran of the American Civil War, founded the town of Florence on the south bank of the Gila River. He came to Arizona Territory in 1866 as a U.S. Indian Agent. Recognizing the agricultural potential of the valley, he found an easily fordable crossing on the Gila River and surveyed a townsite there. With the aid of Governor R.C. McCormick, he secured a post office in August of the same year. Ruggles held numerous public offices including that of Territorial Legislator. Florence became the county seat in the newly formed Pinal County. Silver was discovered in 1875 in the nearby mountains which led to the creation of the famous Silver King Mine.
Choose the Best Legal Assistant Program near Florence AZ
Choosing the right paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Florence residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Florence AZ.
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