How to Select the Best Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Goodyear Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Goodyear AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of prospective students begin by looking for schools within commuting range of their Goodyear residences. Of those choices, they look for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when picking a college, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account as well. 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 before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants for the most part both hold comparable 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 Goodyear AZ lawyers with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm could assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting 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 conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be diverse in support of the firms where they are employed, but some of their daily tasks might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. However, what they are not legally authorized to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative functions 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 have the ability to take on a much larger number of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Goodyear AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have acquired either a certificate or degree, you might want to continue and receive a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. A few 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 address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Legal Assistant and Paralegal Courses
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more popular and may be a good alternative for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Goodyear AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online classes can often be less expensive than more traditional options. Even secondary expenses for such things as study materials or commuting can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program 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 structured and formal environment, then earning your degree or certificate online may be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Goodyear AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you must learn 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 also. If you are like many prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously discussed, there are other important aspects to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can properly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a recognized 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Goodyear AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually obtainable only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Goodyear AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Provide Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Goodyear 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 entering upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance provided? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduating, but finding that first job in a new field can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are highly regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ among states, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduation. Also, it will be valuable to develop relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to receive your education in the area where you choose to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may wish to first investigate those colleges that are within the Goodyear AZ area.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in price depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Goodyear AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend weekend or evening classes near Goodyear AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in makes available that option. Finally, inquire what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Goodyear Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the choice of attending classes on-campus or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Goodyear residence. Paralegal academic programs are offered in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the ideal education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Goodyear Arizona.