How to Find the Right Paralegal Training Program Near Drexel Heights Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Drexel Heights AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving range of their Drexel Heights residences. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable job roles and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Drexel Heights AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Drexel Heights AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your job 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Drexel Heights AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online could be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are available, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered 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 especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to think about also, 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 investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of 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 accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Drexel Heights AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Drexel Heights AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Drexel Heights AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help reduce some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Drexel Heights AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Drexel Heights AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up missed classes as a result of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Drexel Heights Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the ideal legal assistant certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Drexel Heights home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Drexel Heights Arizona.