How to Select a Paralegal Certificate Program near Sun City West Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Sun City West AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it’s crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by searching for paralegal schools within driving distance of their Sun City West homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let’s take a look at 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 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 different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist lawyers in Sun City West AZ with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer’s. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a Sun City West AZ paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career in Sun City West AZ as a paralegal is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor’s Degrees are available also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as a paralegal in Sun City West AZ.
Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for students in Sun City West AZ searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school 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 conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating Sun City West AZ area schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important issues to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Sun City West AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What’s the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the Sun City West AZ paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear 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 Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Sun City West AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first look at those schools that are within your Sun City West AZ local region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don’t forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so don’t forget to talk to the school’s financial aid office to find out what is available in Sun City West AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Sun City West AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Considering Paralegal School in Sun City West AZ?
Sun City West, Arizona
As of the census of 2010, there were 24,535 people, 14,873 households, and 8,550 families residing in the CDP. The population density was 2,245.2 people per square mile (866.9/km²). There were 18,218 housing units at an average density of 1,666.8 per square mile (643.6/km²). The racial makeup of the CDP was 97.8% White, 0.8% Black or African American, 0.2% Native American, 0.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 0.2% from other races, and 0.5% from two or more races. 1.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 14,873 households out of which 14 had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.5% were married couples living together, 2.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 42.5% were non-families. 39.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 35.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.64 and the average family size was 2.05.
In the CDP, the population was spread out with 0.1% under the age of 14, 0.1% from 15 to 19, 0.1% from 15 to 24, 0.2% from 25 to 29, 0.2% from 30 to 34, 0.2% 35 to 39, 0.4% 45 to 49, 1.5% from 50 to 54, 3.6% 55 to 59, 9.2% from 60 to 64, 13.8% from 65 to 69, 17.2% from 70 to 74, 19.5% from 75 to 79, 18.3% from 80 to 84, and 14.8% who were 85 years of age or older. The median age was 75.6 years. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 77.6 males.
The median income for a household in the CDP was $44,614, and the median income for a family was $58,345. Males had a median income of $48,333 versus $33,125 for females. The per capita income for the CDP was $35,502. About 2.5% of families and 5.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including none of those under age 18 and 5.0% of those age 65 or over.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Degree Program near Sun City West AZ
Choosing the best paralegal educational program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Sun City West residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Sun City West AZ.
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