How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Fountain Hills Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Fountain Hills AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important 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 among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within traveling range of their Fountain Hills homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only factors you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill 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 belong to a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Fountain Hills AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but some of their daily activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Fountain Hills AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require just six months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may want 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 improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Courses
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more popular and can be a good alternative for those searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Fountain Hills AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Fountain Hills AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial factors to think about also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Fountain Hills AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant programs you are considering. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Fountain Hills AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Fountain Hills AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success 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 graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those colleges that are within the Fountain Hills AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance may be available to help minimize part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Fountain Hills AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Fountain Hills AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the program you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Fountain Hills Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step toward 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 comfort and privacy of your Fountain Hills residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you choose to receive your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each school and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Fountain Hills Arizona.