How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Avondale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Avondale AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Avondale homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be considered also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Avondale AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- 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 maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite 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 paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Avondale AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning 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 Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Avondale AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses 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 education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Avondale AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most 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 critical issues to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal 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 learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Avondale AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Avondale AZ law practices 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 outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Avondale AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Avondale AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Avondale AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Avondale 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 enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Avondale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Avondale home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Avondale Arizona.