How to Find the Right Paralegal Studies Training Program Near Goodyear Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Goodyear AZ and start your journey that will result in a satisfying career in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic options are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students start by trying to find schools within driving range of their Goodyear homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school must be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a different job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Goodyear AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high level of professionalism and follow a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be varied in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their daily activities might involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and very demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable 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 preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger volume of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Goodyear AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more expansive education and may be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a certificate or degree, 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 increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some 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 first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Certificates and Degrees
Paralegal and legal assistant online programs have become more popular and can be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Goodyear AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the training you receive is of the highest quality. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a respected organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Studies Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of assessing schools. But because there are so many programs available at junior and community colleges in the Goodyear AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must 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 certificate and degree programs also. 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 covered, there are other significant issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you should be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal program and school that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it might also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Goodyear AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Find out what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the profession with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call some Goodyear AZ law offices that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep 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 Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law firm or other legal enterprise while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Goodyear AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it may be a good idea to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. Also, it will be important to create relationships in the area legal community, possibly by means of an internship program. This is even more reason to acquire your education in the community where you choose to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to first consider those colleges that are within the Goodyear AZ region.
What is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the amount of training provided. 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 assistance might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so don't forget to contact the school's financial aid department to find out what is available in Goodyear AZ. Naturally if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional expenses, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? A number of legal students keep working while receiving their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Goodyear AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Goodyear Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed 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 home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a pronounced influence on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to evaluate each program and make your final decision. And with the appropriate education you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Goodyear Arizona.