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How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Avondale Arizona

Avondale Arizona woman paralegal consulting with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Avondale AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Avondale homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Avondale Arizona law library

Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Avondale AZ attorneys with a wide range 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. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal 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 adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may include:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Researching pertinent cases and laws
  • Drafting correspondence and legal papers
  • 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 documents, files and other records

With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.

Paralegal Programs and Certification

Avondale Arizona male paralegal on cellphone writing notes

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 educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Avondale AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes

Avondale Arizona woman student enrolled in online paralegal trainingOnline legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Avondale AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.

Things to Ask Paralegal Programs

Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Avondale AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Avondale AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.

What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Avondale AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.

Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start developing contacts within the Avondale AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide 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 wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large 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? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Avondale AZ area.

What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Avondale AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.

Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Avondale AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Last, find out what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Avondale Online Paralegal Certificate and Degree Programs

Enroll in the Best Avondale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program

Choosing the ideal legal assistant certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Avondale home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Avondale Arizona.


 

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