How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Drexel Heights Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Drexel Heights AZ and begin your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Drexel Heights residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Drexel Heights AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Drexel Heights AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 school (we will discuss the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and can be a good option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Drexel Heights AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a respected organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Drexel Heights AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Drexel Heights AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal 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 caliber of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Drexel Heights AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Drexel Heights AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good sign that the schools have large 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 differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Drexel Heights AZ region.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset 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. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Drexel Heights AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Drexel Heights Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant certificate program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 comfort and privacy of your Drexel Heights residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Drexel Heights Arizona.