How to Choose the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate 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 result in a rewarding career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will get the extensive training that you need to succeed. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more educational choices are becoming available, both at school and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within traveling range of their Golden Valley residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should consider. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into account too. Later on in this article we will review a list of questions 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 have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both fill the same job positions and functions, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Golden Valley AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering files to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And the same as lawyers, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but some of their day-to-day activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not restricted to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Golden Valley AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you might choose to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Training
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Golden Valley AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online programs can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the ideal choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Golden Valley AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly 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 begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial aspects to research as well, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few 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 program and school that you select should be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the training you will receive will be of the highest quality, but it will establish with potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Numerous Golden Valley AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Also, financial aid and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Golden Valley AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even when a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs give students an opportunity to experience working in a law firm or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a means for students to start establishing contacts within the Golden Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will most likely wish to secure employment quickly after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good 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 from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduation. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may wish to initially look at those colleges that are within the Golden Valley AZ area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance may be available to help offset part of the cost, so be sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is offered in Golden Valley AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, for instance for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many legal students continue working while receiving their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Golden Valley AZ, verify classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, confirm that the school you select offers that option. Finally, inquire what the protocol is for making-up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Golden Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the right paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Golden Valley home. Paralegal education programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Different kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But regardless of how you elect to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Golden Valley Arizona.