How to Select a Paralegal Program near Douglas Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Douglas AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options 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 Douglas residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine 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 options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Douglas AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Douglas AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Douglas AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade 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 also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Douglas AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Douglas AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Douglas AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Douglas AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, 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 also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Douglas AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Douglas AZ, make sure 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 provides that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Douglas AZ?
If you live near Douglas 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.
Cochise County, Arizona
In 1528 Spanish Explorers: Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca, Estevanico, and Fray Marcos de Niza survived a shipwreck off Texas coast. Captured by Native Americans they spent 8 years finding way back to Mexico City, via the San Pedro Valley. Their journals, maps, and stories lead to the Cibola, seven cities of gold myth. The Expedition of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado in 1539 using it as his route north through what they called the Guachuca Mountains of Pima (Tohono O'odham) lands and later part of the mission routes north, but was actually occupied by the Sobaipuri descendants of the Hohokam. They found a large Pueblo (described as a small city) between Benson and Whetstone, and several smaller satellite villages and smaller pueblos including ones on Fort Huachuca, Huachuca City and North Eastern Fry. About 1657 Father Kino visited the Sobaipuris just before the Apache forced most from the valley, as they were struggling to survive due to increasing Chiricahua Apache attacks as they moved into the area of Texas Canyon in the Dragoon Mountains. In 1776 The Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrante was founded on the West bank of the San Pedro River, to protect the natives as well as the Spanish settlers who supplied the mission stations, but it was chronically short on provisions from raids, and lack of personnel to adequately patrol the eastern route due to wars with France and England, so the main route north shifted west to the Santa Cruz valley, farther from the Chiricahua Apache's ranges who almost exclusively controlled the area by 1821.
Cochise County was created on February 1, 1881, out of the eastern portion of Pima County. It took its name from the legendary Chiricahua Apache war chief Cochise. The county seat was Tombstone until 1929 when it moved to Bisbee. Notable men who once held the position of County Sheriff were Johnny Behan, who served as the first sheriff of the new county, and who was one of the main characters during the events leading to and following the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral. Later, in 1886, Texas John Slaughter became sheriff. Lawman Jeff Milton and lawman/outlaw Burt Alvord both served as deputies under Slaughter.
A syndicated television series which aired from 1956 to 1958, Sheriff of Cochise starring John Bromfield, was filmed in Bisbee. The Jimmy Stewart movie Broken Arrow and subsequent television show of the same name starring John Lupton, which also aired from 1956 to 1958, took place (but was not filmed) in Cochise County.
Find the Ideal Paralegal School near Douglas AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed 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 Douglas home. Paralegal education programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Douglas AZ.
Other Arizona Locations That May Be Of Interest
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