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How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Program Near Flowing Wells Arizona

Flowing Wells Arizona female paralegal consulting with client on cellphoneCongratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Flowing Wells AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Flowing Wells residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the academic choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.

Legal Assistants and Paralegals

Flowing Wells Arizona legal library

Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Flowing Wells AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their routine tasks might include:

  • Investigating and fact checking cases
  • Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
  • Preparing correspondence and legal papers
  • Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
  • Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
  • Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records

With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be involved and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.

Paralegal Education and Certification

Flowing Wells Arizona male legal assistant speaking on phone taking notes

As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Flowing Wells AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.

Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs

Flowing Wells Arizona female student enrolled in online paralegal coursesOnline legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and can be an excellent alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Flowing Wells AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.

Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs

Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous 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 evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to research also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.

Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Flowing Wells AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.

What's the Reputation of the School? Find out 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 field with no prior work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, 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 practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.

Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Flowing Wells AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.

Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.

Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ among states, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps 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 attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to first consider those schools that are within the Flowing Wells AZ area.

How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential obtained 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 assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Flowing Wells AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as 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 solely attend night or weekend classes near Flowing Wells AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.

Learn More About Flowing Wells Paralegal Degree Programs

Choose the Best Flowing Wells Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program

Enrolling in the best legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Flowing Wells home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine 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.


 

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