How to Enroll in the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near El Mirage Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near El Mirage AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students start by trying to find schools within driving distance of their El Mirage homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help El Mirage AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily activities might include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. 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 proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in El Mirage AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to El Mirage AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the El Mirage AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical issues to think about also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose need to 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 targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous El Mirage AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few El Mirage AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the El Mirage AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially look at those colleges that are within the El Mirage AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in El Mirage AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just 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 certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Last, find out what the process is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right El Mirage Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies training school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your El Mirage home. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you choose to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in El Mirage Arizona.