How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Degree Program Near Drexel Heights Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Drexel Heights AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by searching for schools within driving range of their Drexel Heights homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, 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 essentially both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Drexel Heights AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job 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 proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos 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, lawyers are able to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees 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 job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Drexel Heights AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can 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 an option as well. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Drexel Heights AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Drexel Heights AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant issues to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a reputable organization 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Drexel Heights AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming 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 several Drexel Heights AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to start developing contacts within the Drexel Heights AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws differ among states, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to initially consider those schools that are within the Drexel Heights AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Drexel Heights AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Drexel Heights AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you choose makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Drexel Heights Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training school is a crucial first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Drexel Heights residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to assess each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Drexel Heights Arizona.