How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Avondale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Avondale AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Avondale residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Avondale AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, 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 opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Avondale AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Avondale AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Avondale AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. 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 previously covered, there are other significant aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Avondale AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Avondale AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Avondale AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because 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 plan to work after graduation. Also, it will be important to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first consider those schools that are within the Avondale AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, 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 might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Avondale AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Avondale 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 makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Avondale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an important 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Avondale home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Avondale Arizona.