How to Pick the Best Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program Near Golden Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Golden Valley AZ and start your journey that will lead to a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Golden Valley homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of concerns that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options 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 roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Golden Valley AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on applicable cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. 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 action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Golden Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which can involve just 6 months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. After you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two important initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Golden Valley AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Degree or Certificate Programs
Now that you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what educational options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs available at junior and community colleges in the Golden Valley AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other significant factors to consider also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program 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 can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Golden Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial aid and student loans are typically obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact some Golden Valley AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation 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 exceptional reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Golden Valley AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will most likely want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws differ from state to state, it may be beneficial to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduating. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the local legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Golden Valley AZ area.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies 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 department to find out what is available in Golden Valley AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online school, some of these supplementary costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Golden Valley AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the program you select provides that option. Last, ask what the protocol is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Golden Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the ideal paralegal studies degree school is a crucial first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have discussed in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Golden Valley home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Several types of private and public institutions make available paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Golden Valley Arizona.