How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Chandler Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Chandler AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Chandler homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school must be considered too. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Chandler AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily tasks might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Chandler AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Chandler AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Chandler AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you pick should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Chandler AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Chandler AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Chandler AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Chandler AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Chandler AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Chandler AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Chandler Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Chandler home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in many formats and lengths. Various types of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Chandler Arizona.