How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Avra Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Avra Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Avra Valley homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job positions and functions, 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 classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Avra Valley AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Avra Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to complete. 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 extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Avra Valley AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Avra Valley AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Avra Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Avra Valley AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Avra Valley AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. 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 substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those colleges that are within the Avra Valley AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Avra Valley AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Avra Valley AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Avra Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies degree school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Avra Valley residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Avra Valley Arizona.