How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Fountain Hills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fountain Hills AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Fountain Hills homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to 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 examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let’s take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
What is a Paralegal and What Do They Do?
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just 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 Fountain Hills AZ with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney’s. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a Fountain Hills AZ paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career in Fountain Hills AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired 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 work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 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 a paralegal in Fountain Hills AZ.
Online Paralegal Programs
Online paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for students in Fountain Hills AZ searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to those who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced 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 example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of assessing Fountain Hills AZ area schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive 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 get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Fountain Hills AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the Fountain Hills AZ paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Fountain Hills AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering 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 most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish 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 may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within your Fountain Hills AZ local area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Fountain Hills AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Fountain Hills AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Fountain Hills AZ?
Fountain Hills, Arizona
Fountain Hills is a town in Maricopa County, Arizona, United States. Known for its impressive fountain, once the tallest in the world, it borders on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, and Scottsdale, Arizona. The population is 22,489, as of the 2010 census. Between the 1990 and 2000 censuses it was the eighth-fastest-growing place among cities and towns in Arizona.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 18.2 square miles (47.1 km2), of which 18.1 square miles (46.9 km2) is land and 0.1 square mile (0.26 km2) (0.55%) is water.
To the east of the town is the Verde River, a tributary to the Salt River. Inside the town there are many washes that run through Fountain Hills into the Verde River. Some of these washes include the Ashbrook, Balboa, Legend, and Colony Washes. During times of rain the washes flood with water and can sometimes block roads with their water.
To the southwest and northwest regions of Fountain Hills are the McDowell Mountains, a chain of extinct volcanic mountains. The highest mountains in the range are East End (4,033 ft (1,229 m)) and Thompson Peak (3,910 ft (1,190 m)).
Choose the Best Paralegal Certificate Program near Fountain Hills AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an important 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 comfort and privacy of your Fountain Hills residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, 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 Fountain Hills AZ.
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