How to Select a Paralegal Studies Program near Somerton Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Somerton AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive 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 a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within traveling distance of their Somerton homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives 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 the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Somerton AZ with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal 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 responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Somerton AZ paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 quickest means to begin your career in Somerton AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Somerton AZ.
Online Paralegal Degrees
Paralegal online schools have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students in Somerton AZ searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to individuals who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Somerton AZ area schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Somerton AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the Somerton AZ paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Somerton AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success 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 corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within your Somerton AZ local region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. 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 as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is offered in Somerton AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Somerton AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Somerton AZ?
As of the census of 2000, there were 7,266 people, 1,818 households, and 1,652 families residing in the city. The population density was 5,483.2 people per square mile (2,109.3/km²). There were 1,967 housing units at an average density of 1,484.4 per square mile (571.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 44.52% White, 0.37% Black or African American, 0.65% Native American, 0.34% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 51.11% from other races, and 2.99% from two or more races. 95.17% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 1,818 households out of which 59.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 70.9% were married couples living together, 16.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 9.1% were non-families. 7.8% of all households were made up of individuals and 4.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 3.99 and the average family size was 4.21.
In the city, the population was spread out with 38.9% under the age of 18, 11.2% from 18 to 24, 28.3% from 25 to 44, 14.4% from 45 to 64, and 7.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 25 years. For every 100 females there were 96.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.3 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $26,544, and the median income for a family was $27,944. Males had a median income of $21,619 versus $16,677 for females. The per capita income for the city was $7,960. About 24.0% of families and 26.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.8% of those under age 18 and 27.9% of those age 65 or over.
Find the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Somerton AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Somerton home. Paralegal training programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Somerton AZ.
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