How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Course Near Buckeye Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Buckeye AZ and start your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Buckeye homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically 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 are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Buckeye AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. 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 practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their day-to-day tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Buckeye AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining 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 Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Buckeye AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Buckeye AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should 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 online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Buckeye AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call a few Buckeye AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Buckeye AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside 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. 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 may be available to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Buckeye AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Buckeye AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Buckeye Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal certificate program is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Buckeye home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training 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 final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Buckeye Arizona.