How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Avondale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Avondale AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Avondale homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Avondale AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, 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 wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their everyday activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. On the other hand, 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 confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically 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 fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Avondale AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Avondale AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Avondale AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective 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 critical issues to research as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Avondale AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose 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 quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Avondale AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Avondale AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer 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 wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Avondale AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help reduce some of the expense, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Avondale AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Avondale AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Avondale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal degree school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Avondale residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Avondale Arizona.