How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Degree Program Near Gold Canyon Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Gold Canyon AZ and start your journey that will result in a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you locate the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Gold Canyon homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both fill comparable job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Gold Canyon AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting files to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative functions more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly 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 handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Gold Canyon AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. When you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Gold Canyon AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are reviewing are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Gold Canyon AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Gold Canyon AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are considering. 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. Checking that the program you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Gold Canyon AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what 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 Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Gold Canyon AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws vary among states, it might be advantageous to select a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. Also, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to obtain your education in the area where you desire to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Gold Canyon AZ area.
How Much is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Gold Canyon AZ. Naturally if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Gold Canyon AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you enroll in offers that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Gold Canyon Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the right legal assistant certificate school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered 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 Gold Canyon residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Gold Canyon Arizona.