How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Eloy Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Eloy AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within traveling range of their Eloy homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different 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 legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their regular tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
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 educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Eloy AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be earned at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, 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 improve your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. 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 school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Eloy AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate 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 considering that there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Eloy AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important aspects to research also, including 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 considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Eloy AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Eloy AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if 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 give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Eloy AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance 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 substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you choose to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those schools that are within the Eloy AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be available to help offset some of the expense, so make 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 program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Eloy AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Eloy Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies degree school is a crucial 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 on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Eloy home. Paralegal training programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program 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 best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Eloy Arizona.