How to Pick the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Gold Canyon Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Gold Canyon AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are becoming available, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Gold Canyon residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be taken into account too. Later in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you should ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your selection. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Gold Canyon AZ lawyers with a wide range of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, 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 firm could assist with trial logistics or transporting documents 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 adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching applicable cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers get ready 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 complex and rather demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Gold Canyon AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and can be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and obtain a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Courses
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially attractive to Gold Canyon AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Gold Canyon AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask so that you can 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 looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other critical aspects to think about as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you choose should be accredited by a respected organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive 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 have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided 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 offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin creating contacts within the Gold Canyon AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new field can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to build relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially consider those schools that are within the Gold Canyon AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help reduce part of the expense, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Gold Canyon AZ. Of course if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Gold Canyon AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you select makes available that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Best Gold Canyon Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Gold Canyon residence. Paralegal education programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to assess each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Gold Canyon Arizona.