How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Flowing Wells Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Flowing Wells AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive 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 more and more academic options are being offered, both at school and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting range of their Flowing Wells residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be considered also. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions 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 separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Flowing Wells AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, 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 could help with the logistics of a trial or delivering 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 carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their routine tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And since 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Flowing Wells AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Flowing Wells AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a respected agency, 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 certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Flowing Wells AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate 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 start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other significant issues to research as well, such as 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 researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Flowing Wells AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Flowing Wells AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Flowing Wells AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduation, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ among states, it might be beneficial to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Flowing Wells AZ region.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Flowing Wells AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online program, some of these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Flowing Wells AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you enroll in offers that option. Finally, ask what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Flowing Wells Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal training school is an essential 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 attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Flowing Wells residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Flowing Wells Arizona.