How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Buckeye Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Buckeye AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within commuting range of their Buckeye homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, 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 Buckeye AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- 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 duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather 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 paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Buckeye AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Buckeye AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Buckeye AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. 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 previously discussed, there are other important aspects to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Buckeye AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing 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 call a few Buckeye AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Buckeye AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Buckeye AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Buckeye AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Buckeye AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Buckeye Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training school is an essential 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 Buckeye residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Buckeye Arizona.