How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Pima Arizona
Best Wishes regarding your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Pima AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate 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 among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving distance of their Pima homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist attorneys in Pima AZ with a wide variety of job duties, including 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 firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Pima AZ paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Pima AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Pima AZ.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for those in Pima AZ looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example 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 right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Pima AZ area schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 covered, there are other important issues to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Pima AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the Pima AZ paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Pima AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great 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 from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Pima AZ local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Pima AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Pima AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Pima AZ?
Pima County, Arizona
Pima County /ˈpiːmə/ is a county in the south central region of the U.S. state of Arizona. As of the 2010 census, the population was 980,263, making it Arizona's second-most populous county. The county seat is Tucson, where nearly all of the population is centered. The county is named after the Pima Native Americans who are indigenous to this area.
Pima County contains parts of the Tohono O'odham Nation, as well as all of the San Xavier Indian Reservation, the Pascua Yaqui Indian Reservation, Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Ironwood Forest National Monument and Saguaro National Park.
The vast majority of the county population lies in and around the city of Tucson (2011 city population: 525,796), filling much of the eastern part of the county with urban development. Tucson, Arizona's second largest city, is a major commercial and academic center. Other urban areas include the Tucson suburbs of Oro Valley (population 41,335), Marana (population 35,232), Sahuarita (population 25,458), and South Tucson (population 5,695), a large ring of unincorporated urban development, and the growing satellite town Green Valley. The rest of the county is sparsely populated; the largest towns are Sells, the capital of the Tohono O'odham Nation, and Ajo in the county's far western region.
Pima County, one of the four original counties in Arizona, was created by the 1st Arizona Territorial Legislature with land acquired through the Gadsden Purchase from Mexico in 1853. The original county consisted of all of Arizona Territory east of longitude 113° 20' and south of the Gila River. Soon thereafter, the counties of Cochise, Graham and Santa Cruz were carved from the original Pima County.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Program near Pima AZ
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Pima residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose 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 program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Pima AZ.
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