How to Find a Paralegal Degree Program near Mesa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Mesa AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within driving range of their Mesa homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s have a look at exactly 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 the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Mesa AZ with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a Mesa AZ paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs 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 start your career in Mesa AZ as a paralegal is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits 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 Mesa AZ.
Online Paralegal Training
Paralegal online programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students in Mesa AZ looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing Mesa AZ area schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible 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 add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant issues to think about as well, including 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 ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Mesa AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What’s the Program’s Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the Mesa AZ paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start creating contacts within the Mesa AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. 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 need to first look at those schools that are within your Mesa AZ local region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to consult with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Mesa AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Mesa AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Mesa AZ?
Mesa (/ˈmeɪsə/ MAY-sə) is a city in Maricopa County, in the U.S. state of Arizona. It is a suburb located about 20 miles (32 km) east of Phoenix in the East Valley section of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. It is bordered by Tempe on the west, the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community on the north, Chandler and Gilbert on the south along with Queen Creek, and Apache Junction on the east.
Mesa is the largest suburban city by population in the United States, the third-largest city in Arizona after Phoenix and Tucson, and the 36th-largest city overall in the US. The city is home to 496,401 people as of 2017 according to the Census Bureau, which makes it more populous than major cities such as Minneapolis, St. Louis, or Miami. Mesa is home to numerous higher education facilities including the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. It is also home to the largest relief airport in the Phoenix area, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, which is located in the southeastern corner of the city.
The history of Mesa dates back at least 2,000 years to the arrival of the Hohokam people. The Hohokam, whose name means "All Used Up" or "The Departed Ones", built the original canal system. The canals were the largest and most sophisticated in the prehistoric New World. Some were up to 90 feet (27 m) wide and 10 feet (3.0 m) deep at their head gates, extending for as far as 16 miles (26 km) across the desert. By A.D. 1100 water could be delivered to an area over 110,000 acres (450 km2), transforming the Sonoran Desert into an agricultural oasis. By A.D. 1450, the Hohokam had constructed hundreds of miles of canals many of which are still in use today.
After the disappearance of the Hohokam and before the arrival of the early settlers little is known, as explorers did not venture into this area. By the late 19th century near present-day Mesa, U.S. Army troops subdued the Apache opening the way for settlement.
Choose the Ideal Paralegal Training near Mesa AZ
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Mesa residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Mesa AZ.
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