How to Choose the Best Paralegal 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you locate the best school so that you will get the extensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic options are becoming available, both at school and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many prospective students begin by searching for schools within driving distance of their Goodyear homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a college, they are not the only qualifiers you need to take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the program must be taken into account too. Later in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare every one before making your choice. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a different job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Goodyear AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they work. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is normally billed by the hour as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their everyday tasks may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers 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 challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Education and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The fastest means to begin your career as a paralegal in Goodyear AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require just six months to complete. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are available also. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may want to proceed and receive a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more prevalent and can be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Goodyear AZ students who continue to work while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online schools can often be less costly than on campus options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet schools are accredited, which we will discuss in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps ensure that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are considering are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for example 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 could be the ideal option for you.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what training choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are so many programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Goodyear AZ area, in addition to trade and vocational schools, you need to learn what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is especially true when you add all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like most potential students, you will start by searching for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to think about also, including accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you should be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate choice.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 targets distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. A number of Goodyear AZ law firms will only hire entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your education exclusively. Checking that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact some Goodyear AZ law practices that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students an opportunity to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to begin establishing contacts within the Goodyear AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduation, but getting that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement 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 graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to choose a legal assistant school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps through an internship program. This is all the more justification to receive your education in the area where you want to practice. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to first look at those schools that are within the Goodyear AZ region.
What is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost based on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your education. Don't forget to include the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help minimize some of the expense, so make sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Goodyear AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Classes Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students continue working while obtaining their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can solely attend night or weekend classes near Goodyear AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you enroll in offers that option. Last, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Right Goodyear Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate school is a vital first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the choice of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Goodyear home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many lengths and formats. Various kinds of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a pronounced influence on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But no matter how you choose to receive your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will be able to evaluate each school and make your ultimate selection. And with the appropriate training you can accomplish your career goal to become a practicing paralegal in Goodyear Arizona.