How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies 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 profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Anthem homes. Of those alternatives, 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 factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Anthem AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education 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 job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Anthem AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. 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 paralegal degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Anthem AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start 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 vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Anthem AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Anthem AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Anthem AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Anthem AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Anthem AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Anthem AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure 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 best paralegal studies degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Anthem residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Anthem Arizona.