How to Pick the Right Paralegal School Near Buckeye Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Buckeye AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the ideal school so that you will receive 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 a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Buckeye residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into account as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Buckeye AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, 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. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Buckeye AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work 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 respected certifying organizations 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first 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 common and may be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Buckeye AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Buckeye AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Buckeye AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Buckeye AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Buckeye AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be beneficial to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Buckeye AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Buckeye AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Buckeye AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Buckeye Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies certificate program is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Buckeye residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Buckeye Arizona.