How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Oracle Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Oracle AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Oracle residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and functions, 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 different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Oracle AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon 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, a paralegal’s work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Oracle AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Oracle AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial aspects to think about as well, 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 schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Oracle AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Oracle AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Oracle AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Oracle AZ region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Oracle AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Oracle AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to those who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Oracle AZ?
If you live near Oracle 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.
Buffalo Bill Cody owned the High Jinks Gold Mine in Oracle briefly and, in 1911, appeared as "Santa" for a group of local children. The community is the location of the Biosphere 2 experiment. Oracle was also the postal address for environmentalist author Edward Abbey, who never lived in the town but visited often. Oracle is becoming a bedroom community for Tucson, Arizona, but large-scale development is opposed by many residents.
Oracle State Park is adjacent. The Arizona Trail passes through the Park and community. Oracle is the gateway to the road up the "back side" of Mount Lemmon, which starts off of American Avenue and currently offers a secondary route to the top. Prior to the construction of the Catalina Highway on the opposite side of the Santa Catalina range, the Oracle Control Road was the only road access to the mountain community of Summerhaven. The term "control road" derives from the fact that the direction of traffic was restricted to one-way only, either up or down at alternate times of day, to prevent motorists from having to pass one another on the narrow, steep road. This route is now popular mainly with off-road 4x4 drivers and with off-road or dual-purpose motorcyclists, and should not be attempted by regular passenger cars or street motorcycles. This road ends at the Catalina Highway near Loma Linda.
The name "Oracle" comes from early prospectors. Albert Weldon came to the area looking for gold and silver. He and some other companions named their first mine The Oracle after the ship Weldon had traveled on. The community was later named after its first mine, and thus, indirectly, after a ship.
Enroll in the Best Legal Assistant Certificate Program near Oracle AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal educational program is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Oracle residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Oracle AZ.
Other Arizona Locations That May Be Of Interest
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