How to Select the Best Paralegal Certificate Program Near Drexel Heights Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Drexel Heights AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Drexel Heights residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable 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 different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Drexel Heights AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- 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 preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable 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 handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Drexel Heights AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help substantiate 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Drexel Heights AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Drexel Heights AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Drexel Heights AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Drexel Heights AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Drexel Heights AZ legal field. 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 pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from state to state, it may be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Drexel Heights AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Drexel Heights AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Drexel Heights AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Drexel Heights Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Drexel Heights home. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, 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 training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Drexel Heights Arizona.