How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Training Program Near Avondale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Avondale AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. 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. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Avondale residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 assist Avondale AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Avondale AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Avondale AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded 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 option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Avondale AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 discussed, there are other significant issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also get 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 obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Avondale AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations 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 caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Avondale AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Avondale AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance 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 substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Avondale AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Avondale AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Avondale AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Avondale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree program is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Avondale residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Avondale Arizona.