How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Program Near Apache Junction Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Apache Junction AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of 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? A number of prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Apache Junction homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices 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 equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Apache Junction AZ lawyers 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep 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 involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
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 academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Apache Junction AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained 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 as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Apache Junction AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Apache Junction AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over 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 ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential 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 school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools 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 quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Apache Junction AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Apache Junction AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing 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 substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those colleges that are within the Apache Junction AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Apache Junction AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Apache Junction AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Apache Junction Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Apache Junction residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Different types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting 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 program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Apache Junction Arizona.