How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Glendale Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Glendale AZ and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students start by looking for schools within traveling distance of their Glendale homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and responsibilities, only with different titles. However, 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 Glendale AZ lawyers 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 work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their regular tasks might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs 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 requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Glendale AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 important first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Training
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Glendale AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for example 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 choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational options are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are numerous programs available at community and junior colleges in the Glendale AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must know what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most 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 crucial aspects to consider as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Glendale AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Glendale AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Glendale AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that first 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 placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial 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 one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to obtain your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Glendale AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending 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 also. Financial aid might be available to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Glendale AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Glendale AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you choose offers that option. Finally, find out what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Glendale Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Glendale residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you choose to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to assess each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Glendale Arizona.