How to Select the Right Paralegal Course Near Apache Junction Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Apache Junction AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Apache Junction residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Apache Junction AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, 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 paralegal in Apache Junction AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Apache Junction AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Apache Junction AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to 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 school. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Apache Junction AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Apache Junction AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the Apache Junction AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Apache Junction AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Apache Junction AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Apache Junction Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal studies training school is an essential first step toward 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 privacy and comfort of your Apache Junction home. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Apache Junction Arizona.