How to Find the Right Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Buckeye Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Buckeye AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Buckeye residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Buckeye AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or delivering files 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 level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. However, what they are not legally authorized 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 duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Buckeye AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Buckeye AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss 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 sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Buckeye AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Buckeye AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically 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 particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Buckeye AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start developing contacts within the Buckeye AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those schools that are within the Buckeye AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Buckeye AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Buckeye AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, 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 procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Buckeye Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Buckeye residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions provide 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 impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Buckeye Arizona.