How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Drexel Heights Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Drexel Heights AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Drexel Heights residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Drexel Heights AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to manage 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 educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Drexel Heights AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Drexel Heights AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive 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 disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Drexel Heights AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important aspects to think about as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Drexel Heights AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those furnished 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 practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Drexel Heights AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first investigate those schools that are within the Drexel Heights AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Drexel Heights AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Drexel Heights AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Drexel Heights Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice 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 many lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced 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 best possible opportunity to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you elect to receive your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Drexel Heights Arizona.