How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Glendale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Glendale AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational options are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some prospective students begin by trying to find schools within driving range of their Glendale residences. Of those alternatives, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both fill comparable 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Glendale AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could help with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by 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 regular tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Glendale AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Glendale AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures 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 a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Glendale AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to research also, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Glendale AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. 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 education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Glendale AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present a means for students to start creating contacts within the Glendale AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ among states, it might be a good idea to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local 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 a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Glendale AZ region.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Glendale AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Glendale AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, find out what the procedure is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Right Glendale Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal studies degree program is an important first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying 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 Glendale residence. Paralegal training programs are provided in various lengths and formats. Several kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Glendale Arizona.