How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies School Near Globe Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Globe 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 get the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within driving distance of their Globe residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program should be taken into account also. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Globe AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Globe AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to accomplish. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more extensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a legal 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. A few of the highly respected certifying organizations 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Legal assistant and paralegal online programs have become more available and can be a good alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Globe AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a respected organization, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what training options are offered, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at community and junior colleges in the Globe AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other significant factors to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you enroll in need to be accredited by a reputable 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 focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Globe AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of special importance if you are new to the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Globe AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also present an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Globe AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new field can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Globe AZ region.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Globe AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Globe AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Globe Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right legal assistant training program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Globe residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Globe Arizona.