How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate or Degree Program Near Big Park Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Big Park AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Big Park homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional 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 roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Big Park AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more suited 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, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Big Park AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose 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 career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Big Park AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often 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 a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing 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 formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Big Park AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several 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 selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Big Park AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Big Park AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Big Park AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success 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 confirms 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 a good idea to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Big Park AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help minimize part of the cost, so don't forget to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Big Park AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Big Park AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Big Park Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies degree program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Big Park home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Big Park Arizona.