How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Anthem Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Anthem AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive 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 becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Anthem residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Anthem AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
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. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Anthem AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Anthem AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain 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, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Anthem AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Anthem AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Anthem AZ law offices 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 the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Anthem AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason 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 wish to first look at those schools that are within the Anthem AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Anthem AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Anthem AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Anthem Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal certificate program is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Anthem home. Paralegal training programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training 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 final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anthem Arizona.