How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Avra Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Avra Valley AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require 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 becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within traveling range of their Avra Valley residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Avra Valley AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular 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 the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Avra Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Avra Valley AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover 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 looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Avra Valley 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 especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Avra Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Avra Valley AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Avra Valley AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid 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 graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Avra Valley AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Avra Valley AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Avra Valley AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Avra Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Avra Valley home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer 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 impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Avra Valley Arizona.