How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Glendale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Glendale AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best 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 educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by searching for schools within commuting range of their Glendale homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will review a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially 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 separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Glendale AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, such as maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job functions are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or delivering files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their everyday activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on relevant cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and quite demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Glendale AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive 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 an option also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase 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 school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Glendale AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, 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 address in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive 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, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online might be the right option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Glendale AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true when you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other critical aspects to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation 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 ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Glendale AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will need to make a decision based on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school 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 rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Glendale AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Glendale AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those schools that are within the Glendale AZ area.
How Much is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential received and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help offset some of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid office to find out what is offered in Glendale AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while getting their training and require flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Glendale AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select provides that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Glendale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right paralegal studies training school is an important first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Glendale home. Paralegal training programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Glendale Arizona.