How to Pick the Right Paralegal Certificate Program Near Arizona City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arizona City AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Arizona City homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Arizona City AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Arizona City AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Arizona City AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized 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 ensure 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 respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Arizona City AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to consider also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Arizona City AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 contact some Arizona City AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Arizona City AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire 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 wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Arizona City AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Arizona City AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Arizona City AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Arizona City Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Arizona City home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of 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 evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Arizona City Arizona.