How to Pick the Right Paralegal Course Near Chandler Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Chandler AZ and start your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Chandler homes. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Chandler AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a paralegal in Chandler AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Chandler AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, for example 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 may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Chandler AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly 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 may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Chandler AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Chandler AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to start creating contacts within the Chandler AZ legal community. Find out 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 available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially investigate those schools that are within the Chandler AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. 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 might be available to help offset part of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Chandler AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Chandler AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Chandler Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chandler residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you elect to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Chandler Arizona.