How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Gold Canyon Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Gold Canyon AZ and begin your journey that will result in a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by trying to find schools within commuting range of their Gold Canyon residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program should be taken into account as well. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Gold Canyon AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may help with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be diverse in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting 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 managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complex and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to begin your career as a paralegal in Gold Canyon AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to accomplish. 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, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Programs
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Gold Canyon AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such things as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a highly regarded agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your certificate or degree online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Gold Canyon AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must know what questions to ask in order to 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 many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other crucial factors to consider also, including the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Gold Canyon AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as 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 Gold Canyon AZ law practices that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Gold Canyon AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help provided? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you desire to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those colleges that are within the Gold Canyon AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential obtained and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help reduce some of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Gold Canyon AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while obtaining their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Gold Canyon AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the program you choose makes available that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Gold Canyon Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree school is an essential first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Gold Canyon home. Paralegal education programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, 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 impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you elect to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to review each program and make your final decision. And with the right training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Gold Canyon Arizona.