How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Course Near Golden Valley Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Golden Valley AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within driving distance of their Golden Valley residences. Of those options, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you must consider. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you ought to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your decision. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both fill the same job positions and functions, only 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 help Golden Valley AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might assist with trial logistics or transporting files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is normally billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and follow a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the practices where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on pertinent cases and laws
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and preserving legal documents, files and other records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very demanding. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, lawyers have the ability to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The quickest way to begin your career as a legal assistant in Golden Valley AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just six months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and may be obtained at numerous community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. When you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your job opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. A few of the highly respected 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 program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for students searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Golden Valley AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will cover in greater detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the school and program you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less supervised and formal environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the right choice for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Programs
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Golden Valley AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can compare each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs as well. If you are like the majority of prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other important factors to consider as well, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are considering so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in need to be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Golden Valley AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are usually offered only for accredited programs.
What's the Program's Reputation? Learn what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are looking at. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no previous work history, since employers will need to rely on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Golden Valley AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Golden Valley AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are evaluating offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing 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 corroborates that their graduates are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be necessary to develop relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the area where you wish to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first look at those schools that are within the Golden Valley AZ region.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid may be accessible to help minimize part of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Golden Valley AZ. Needless to say that if you opt to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can solely attend weekend or evening 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 program you choose makes available that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Golden Valley Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal degree school is a vital first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Golden Valley residence. Paralegal academic programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will be able to review each program and make your final decision. And with the right education you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Golden Valley Arizona.