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How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Anthem Arizona

Anthem Arizona female paralegal consulting with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Anthem AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Anthem homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, 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.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Anthem Arizona law library

Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Anthem AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with 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 everyday tasks might involve:

  • Researching and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on related cases and laws
  • Preparing correspondence and legal documents
  • Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records

With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.

Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification

Anthem Arizona male legal assistant speaking on phone taking notes

As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Anthem AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs

Anthem Arizona woman student enrolled in paralegal online trainingParalegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Anthem AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more 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 looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.

Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs

Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Anthem AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.

Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Anthem AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.

What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Anthem AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.

Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Anthem AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide 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 probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid 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 highly regarded and sought after.

Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Anthem AZ region.

What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Anthem AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Anthem AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Anthem Paralegal Classes

Choose the Right Anthem Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Selecting the right legal assistant degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed 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 Anthem home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Anthem Arizona.


 

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