How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies Certificate 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 rewarding career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational options are being offered, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Gold Canyon homes. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when picking a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the school need to be considered too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you ought to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Gold Canyon AZ attorneys with a wide range of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice could assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks may include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents 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 responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to administrative or clerical tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys are able to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially 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 fastest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Gold Canyon AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can involve as little as six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help improve your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the profession 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 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 legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more available and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly appealing to Gold Canyon AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can in some cases be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps guarantee that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a respected agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal setting, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better understanding regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But since there are numerous 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 evaluate each one. This is especially true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Gold Canyon AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking 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 some Gold Canyon AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also present a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Gold Canyon AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success 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 confirms that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduation. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to initially look at those schools that are within the Gold Canyon AZ area.
What is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be available to help offset part of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Gold Canyon AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, some of these added expenses, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Gold Canyon AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, ask what the protocol is for making up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Gold Canyon Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the right paralegal studies certificate program 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 on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Gold Canyon residence. Paralegal education programs are made available in many lengths and formats. Different types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community 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 prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal education you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Gold Canyon Arizona.