How to Pick the Right Paralegal Studies Course Near Golden Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Golden Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a gratifying profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the right school so that you will receive the extensive training that you need to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one start? Some potential students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Golden Valley residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account also. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your choice. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill comparable job positions 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 lawyers with a wide range of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are based upon the type of practice where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may assist with trial logistics or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as 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 wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their day-to-day activities may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the right hand 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 otherwise.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a legal assistant in Golden Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which can take just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be obtained at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might want to proceed and get a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 degree or certificate from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Online paralegal or legal assistant programs have become more available and can be an excellent option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Golden Valley AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain 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 instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Golden Valley AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are considering 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 reputable accrediting agency 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 online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Golden Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your training exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Golden Valley AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even if a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while attending school. They can also provide a means for students to begin establishing contacts within the Golden Valley AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Since laws vary from one state to another, it might be a good idea to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the community where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to initially investigate those colleges that are within the Golden Valley AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Golden Valley AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of paralegal students continue working while getting their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just 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 choose makes available that option. Last, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Golden Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal training program is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Golden Valley home. Paralegal training programs are made available in numerous lengths and formats. Different kinds of public and private institutions make available paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you choose to acquire your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Golden Valley Arizona.