How to Pick a Paralegal Studies Program near Green Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Green Valley AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Green Valley homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let’s have a look at 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 hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Green Valley AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Green Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Green Valley AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Green Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Green Valley AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Green Valley AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Green Valley AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to see what is offered in Green Valley AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Green Valley AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Green Valley AZ?
If you live near Green Valley 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.
Green Valley, Arizona
Green Valley is located along the western side of the Santa Cruz River at 31°51′N 111°0′W / 31.850°N 111.000°W / 31.850; -111.000 (31.8556, -111.0001).Continental is to the east of Green Valley, on the other side of the river.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the CDP has a total area of 26.3 square miles (68.0 km²), of which, 26.2 square miles (68.0 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.08%) is water.
Green Valley is twenty miles (32 km) south of Tucson and 40 miles (64 km) north of Nogales, Sonora, Mexico. Surrounded by copper mines, and near the cycling, hiking and birding areas of the Santa Rita Mountains, Green Valley is an unincorporated retirement community composed of 59 Homeowner Associations.
Select the Right Legal Assistant School near Green Valley AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Green Valley home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school 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, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Green Valley AZ.
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