How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Avra Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Avra Valley AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Avra Valley residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Avra Valley AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Avra Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may 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 acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your career 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Avra Valley AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Avra Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program 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 program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Avra Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Avra Valley AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance 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 establishing contacts within the Avra Valley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal schools 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 highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Avra Valley AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Avra Valley AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Avra Valley AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in provides that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Avra Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right legal assistant training school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Avra Valley residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Avra Valley Arizona.