How to Choose the Right Paralegal Certificate or 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Flowing Wells residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be taken into consideration also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, 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 legal assistants and paralegals help Flowing Wells AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers 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 duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. On the other hand, 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 limited to administrative or clerical 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 have the ability to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a paralegal in Flowing Wells AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. A few of the highly respected certifying agencies 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 address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important first 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 prevalent and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Flowing Wells AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee 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 highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Flowing Wells AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Flowing Wells AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually available only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field 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 select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Flowing Wells AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Flowing Wells AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might need to first look at those colleges that are within the Flowing Wells AZ area.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Flowing Wells AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Flowing Wells AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Flowing Wells Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal studies certificate school 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 comfort and privacy of your Flowing Wells residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various formats and lengths. Several kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and 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 opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Flowing Wells Arizona.