How to Select the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Arizona City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arizona City AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Arizona City residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Arizona City AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex 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 action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, 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 may take as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Arizona City AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Arizona City AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade 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 degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Arizona City AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Arizona City AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Arizona City AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Arizona City AZ region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Arizona City AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Arizona City AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Arizona City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Arizona City residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Arizona City Arizona.