How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Big Park Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Big Park AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Big Park homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically 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 different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Big Park AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their daily tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably 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 launch your career as a legal assistant in Big Park AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Big Park AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 considering are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Big Park AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Big Park AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Big Park AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Big Park AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign 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? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create 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 want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially look at those schools that are within the Big Park AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Big Park AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Big Park 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 choose provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Big Park Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best legal assistant degree program is an important 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 Big Park home. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Big Park Arizona.