How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Coolidge Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Coolidge AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Coolidge homes. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold 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 belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Coolidge AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities can 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
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases 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. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Coolidge AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying agencies in the field 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Coolidge AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Coolidge AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational 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 degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many 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 crucial aspects to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets 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 establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Coolidge AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Coolidge AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to start developing contacts within the Coolidge AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Coolidge AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Coolidge AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Coolidge AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose offers that option. Last, ask what the process is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Coolidge Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed 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 Coolidge home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Various kinds of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Coolidge Arizona.