How to Find the Best Paralegal Degree Program Near El Mirage Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near El Mirage AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But 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 El Mirage residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school should be taken into consideration also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help El Mirage AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their routine activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in El Mirage AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to El Mirage AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the El Mirage AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to consider as well, for instance 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 considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous El Mirage AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, 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 El Mirage AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the El Mirage AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to initially look at those colleges that are within the El Mirage AZ region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in El Mirage AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near El Mirage 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, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best El Mirage Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your El Mirage residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in El Mirage Arizona.