How to Select a Paralegal School near Maricopa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Maricopa AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it’s essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by trying to find paralegal schools within commuting distance of their Maricopa residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal certificate schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let’s take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help attorneys in Maricopa AZ with a diverse array of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal’s work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer’s. And the same as 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 practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a Maricopa AZ paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career in Maricopa 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 offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are offered also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose 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 increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as a paralegal in Maricopa AZ.
Online Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for students in Maricopa AZ searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to those who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least 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 thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating Maricopa AZ area schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let’s take a look at some 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 decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Maricopa AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the Maricopa AZ paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Maricopa AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School’s Location? Since laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire 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 might need to initially consider those schools that are within your Maricopa AZ local region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Maricopa AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Maricopa AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you enroll in provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Considering Paralegal School in Maricopa AZ?
Maricopa is a city in the Gila River Valley in Arizona. With an estimated 51,977 residents as of 2018, Maricopa is the second most populous incorporated city in Pinal County and eighteenth most populous in Arizona. Maricopa forms part of the Phoenix metropolitan area.
Maricopa has had three locations over the years: Maricopa Wells, Maricopaville and Maricopa Junction; the latter gradually became known as Maricopa. It started as an oasis around a series of watering holes eight miles north of present-day Maricopa, and about a mile west of Pima Butte. European-American traders and travelers called it Maricopa Wells. Several of Arizona’s rivers, the Gila, Santa Cruz, Vekol and Santa Rosa provided this oasis in the desert with an ample supply of water during this period of time.
During the late 1800s, Maricopa Wells was one of the most important relay stations along the San Antonio-San Diego Mail Line and the later more famous Butterfield Overland Mail Route. Although little remains of this once bustling community, it played an important part in the progress and development of the Southwest. It was one of the best-known spots in Arizona during this period of time because it had a reliable source of water, and offered an abundant supply of food. The peaceful Pima and Maricopa farmers who lived and farmed nearby sold supplies to travelers and migrants.
The most prosperous period of time for Maricopa Wells was in the 1870s. During this time the trading center at the Wells provided water and food for not only the east-west travelers, but those who traveled to the north to Phoenix. Fairly good roads had been built by James A. Moore, the proprietor at Maricopa Wells, to all points north, and the Wells was a constant hubbub of activity.
Enroll in the Ideal Paralegal Training near Maricopa AZ
Selecting the ideal paralegal training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Maricopa home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your final selection. And with the right education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Maricopa AZ.
Other Cool Cities in Arizona
Business Results 1 - 10 of 142