How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Arizona City Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Arizona City AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Arizona City homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take 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
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Arizona City AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular activities might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Arizona City AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Arizona City AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Arizona City AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency 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 learning. 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 Arizona City AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Arizona City AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which 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 Provide 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 present a pathway for students to start creating contacts within the Arizona City AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. 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 may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Arizona City AZ region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Arizona City AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Arizona City AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Arizona City Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Arizona City residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Arizona City Arizona.