How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Eloy Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Eloy AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within traveling distance of their Eloy residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will review a list of concerns that you must ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part 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 are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Eloy AZ lawyers with a wide range of job functions, such as 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 are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their daily activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really 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 handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Eloy AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate 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 advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Eloy AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. 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 disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because 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 find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical factors to think about as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on 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 demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Eloy AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Eloy AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also offer a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Eloy AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have sizable 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? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to establish relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those colleges that are within the Eloy AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price 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 books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Eloy AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Eloy AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Eloy Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies training school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Eloy residence. Paralegal training programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced 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 greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Eloy Arizona.