How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Gilbert Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gilbert AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Gilbert homes. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Gilbert AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their regular tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files 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 allowed to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not restricted to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Gilbert AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Gilbert AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover 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 considering are accredited by a respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Gilbert AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is especially true if you add 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to consider as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Gilbert AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call a few Gilbert AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin developing contacts within the Gilbert AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will undoubtedly wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to receive 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 reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially consider those colleges that are within the Gilbert AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be obtainable to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Gilbert AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Gilbert AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Gilbert Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the best paralegal training program is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Gilbert residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions provide paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each program and make your ultimate decision. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Gilbert Arizona.