How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Doney Park Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Doney Park AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic choices are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Doney Park residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Doney Park AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. On the other hand, 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 clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main 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 number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Doney Park AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more prevalent and may be an excellent alternative for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Doney Park AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added benefit, online programs can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Doney Park AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive 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 quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Doney Park AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Doney Park AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a means for students to begin developing contacts within the Doney Park AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to cultivate relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those schools that are within the Doney Park AZ region.
How Much is the Entire 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 expense for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset part of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Doney Park AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of 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 receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Doney Park AZ, make certain 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 process is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Doney Park Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Doney Park residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Doney Park Arizona.