How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Chandler Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chandler AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Chandler residences. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered also. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic 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 roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Chandler AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Chandler AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Chandler AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive 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, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Chandler AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chandler AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Chandler AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Chandler AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Chandler AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Chandler AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Chandler AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Last, find out what the protocol is for making up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Chandler Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal legal assistant training school is an essential 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 comfort and privacy of your Chandler residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Chandler Arizona.