How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies Training 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 gratifying career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the ideal school so that you will receive the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Eloy residences. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the academic alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Eloy AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed 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 tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Eloy AZ is by earning a certificate, which can require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Eloy AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program 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 supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Once you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs offered 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 so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree 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 discussed, there are other important aspects to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Eloy AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine 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 graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Eloy AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are reviewing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire 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 might wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Eloy AZ region.
How Much is the Total 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 education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Eloy AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Eloy AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Best Eloy Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Eloy residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Several kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community 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. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Eloy Arizona.