How to Choose the Best Paralegal School Near Eloy Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Eloy AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Eloy homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program should be considered as well. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly 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 basically both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Eloy AZ attorneys 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 based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving 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 provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos 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 are able to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Eloy AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded certifying organizations 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 benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent alternative for students searching for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Eloy AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Eloy AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other important aspects to research also, for instance accreditation and the reputation 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 effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also get 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 get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Eloy AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying 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 call some Eloy AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a means for students to begin creating contacts within the Eloy AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those schools that are within the Eloy AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Eloy AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many 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 Eloy AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose offers that option. Last, inquire what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Eloy Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right paralegal degree program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Eloy residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Eloy Arizona.