How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Flowing Wells Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Flowing Wells AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession 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 be successful. 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. However with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Flowing Wells homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program must be considered as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Flowing Wells AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private practices, 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 code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated 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 proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs 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 means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Flowing Wells AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few of the highly regarded 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more prevalent and may be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Flowing Wells AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a respected 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 certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Flowing Wells AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Flowing Wells AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some 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 among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Flowing Wells AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Find out if the paralegal programs 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 sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws vary from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the area 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 go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first consider those colleges that are within the Flowing Wells AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add 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 expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Flowing Wells AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Flowing Wells AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Flowing Wells Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 privacy and comfort of your Flowing Wells residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, 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 profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Flowing Wells Arizona.