How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Buckeye Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Buckeye AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Buckeye residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take 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 essentially both fill the same job positions 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Buckeye AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite challenging. On the other hand, 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 tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on 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 perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Buckeye AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Buckeye AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet 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 caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Buckeye AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important factors to consider as well, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should 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 distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Buckeye AZ law firms will only hire 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 School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 call some Buckeye AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Buckeye AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it may be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those schools that are within the Buckeye AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Buckeye AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Buckeye AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you choose provides that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Buckeye Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal degree school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Buckeye residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior 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 prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter 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 evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Buckeye Arizona.