How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Golden Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Golden Valley AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling distance of their Golden Valley residences. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you need to consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school must be considered also. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your choice. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals help Golden Valley AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal's work is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As stated, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their routine tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals 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, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to launch your career as a paralegal in Golden Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly respected 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 earning a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be an excellent alternative for individuals looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Golden Valley AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an added advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable agency, for example 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 could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Golden Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most potential students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other critical factors to research as well, 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 schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Golden Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the School? Learn what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are looking at. This is of particular importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, including 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 Golden Valley AZ law offices that you may have an interest 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 ranked, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Golden Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are reviewing provide 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 undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good sign that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also confirms that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Since laws vary among states, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to establish relationships in the local legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Golden Valley AZ region.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the cost, so make sure to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Golden Valley AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these added expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Golden Valley AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select makes available that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed because of work, illness or family emergencies.
Enroll in the Best Golden Valley Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant certificate program is a crucial 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 Golden Valley home. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Golden Valley Arizona.