How to Select a Paralegal College near Florence Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Florence AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for paralegal schools within commuting range of their Florence homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are available 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 hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Florence AZ with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers 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 Florence AZ paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career in Florence AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Florence AZ.
Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for individuals in Florence AZ looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating Florence AZ area schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Florence AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Florence AZ paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Florence AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within your Florence AZ local area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so don’t forget to contact the school’s financial aid office to see what is offered in Florence AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Florence AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Florence AZ?
Florence (O'odham: S-auppag) is a town, 61 miles (98 km) southeast of Phoenix, in Pinal County of Arizona, United States. Florence, which is the county seat of Pinal County, is one of the oldest towns in that county and is regarded as a National Historic District with over 25 buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The population of Florence was 30,770 at the 2015 census.
The area where the current town of Florence is located was once inhabited by the members of the Athabascans, ancestors of the San Carlos Apache tribe. Prior to the establishment of the town, the Gila River served as a part of the border between the United States and Mexico. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase extended American territory well south of the Gila.
Levi Ruggles, a veteran of the American Civil War, founded the town of Florence on the south bank of the Gila River. He came to Arizona Territory in 1866 as a U.S. Indian Agent. Recognizing the agricultural potential of the valley, he found an easily fordable crossing on the Gila River and surveyed a townsite there. With the aid of Governor R.C. McCormick, he secured a post office in August of the same year. Ruggles held numerous public offices including that of Territorial Legislator. Florence became the county seat in the newly formed Pinal County. Silver was discovered in 1875 in the nearby mountains which led to the creation of the famous Silver King Mine.
In 1870, Fred Adams founded a farming community two miles west of the original Florence townsite. The farming town had stores, homes, a post office, a flour mill, and water tanks, It was named Adamsville. In the 1900s (decade), the Gila River overflowed after a storm and ran over its banks. Most of the small town was wiped out and the residents moved to Florence. The area where the town was established is now a ghost town and is currently within the boundaries of Florence. At the junction of Highway 79 and 287 there is a historical marker about Adamsville.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Florence AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal degree program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Florence residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, 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 influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Florence AZ.
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