How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Anthem Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Anthem AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Anthem residences. Of those choices, they search 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 such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Anthem AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Anthem AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Anthem AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Anthem AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational 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 certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most 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 critical issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive 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 get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Anthem AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered 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 work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 several Anthem AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Anthem AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially 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 graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those schools that are within the Anthem AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Anthem AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Anthem AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Anthem Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Anthem residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Anthem Arizona.