How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Apache Junction Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Apache Junction AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Apache Junction homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. 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 selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job roles and functions, 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 paralegals and legal assistants help Apache Junction AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks 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, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
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. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Apache Junction AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose 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 job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more common and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Apache Junction AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Apache Junction AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 significant aspects to think about as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to 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 distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Apache Junction AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Apache Junction AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Apache Junction AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Apache Junction AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Apache Junction AZ. Of course if you decide 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? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Apache Junction AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Apache Junction Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Apache Junction home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Apache Junction Arizona.