How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Course Near Laveen Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Laveen AZ and begin your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. However, it's crucial that you locate the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to achieve success. As you most likely know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational options are becoming available, both on campus and online. However with so many alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? A number of potential students begin by searching for schools within traveling range of their Laveen homes. Of those options, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although cost and location are prime considerations when selecting a college, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the program should be considered as well. Later in this article we will cover a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one prior to making your choice. But before we do, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold comparable job positions and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Laveen AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including maintaining client files, legal research, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their particular job duties are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private firms, 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 mentioned, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching related cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally allowed to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not restricted to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for lawyers. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a paralegal in Laveen AZ is by earning a certificate, which may take just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which provide a more extensive education and can be earned at many community colleges in two years. For an even more extensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are offered also. Once you have acquired either a degree or a certificate, you may want to continue and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. A few of the highly regarded certifying agencies 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 advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 essential first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Certificates and Degrees
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more popular and may be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be particularly attractive to Laveen AZ students who keep working while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online schools can sometimes be less costly than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials can be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will address 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 certain that the program and school you are reviewing are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less structured and conventional environment, then obtaining your certificate or degree online may be the ideal option for you.
Questions to Ask Paralegal Schools
Since you now you have a better understanding 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 accessible at junior and community colleges in the Laveen AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you need to know 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 prospective students, you will start by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to consider also, for instance accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick should be accredited by a reputable organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it can also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will obtain will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Laveen AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often obtainable only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are entering the profession with no prior experience, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact a few Laveen AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even when a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while remaining in school. They can also provide a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Laveen AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, especially in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new field can be difficult without help. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also corroborates that their students are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it might be advantageous to select a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to cultivate relationships in the neighboring legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to obtain your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you may want to first consider those schools that are within the Laveen AZ region.
How Much is the Entire Cost? Paralegal programs can differ in cost based on the credential received and the length of training provided. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be accessible to help offset some of the expense, so make sure to contact the school's financial aid office to find out what is available in Laveen AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Laveen AZ, make sure classes are available at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, confirm that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making up missed classes as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Laveen Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the best paralegal studies certificate program 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 privacy and comfort of your Laveen residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your selection of a paralegal program will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new career. Considering that there is a broad range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this rewarding profession. But irrespective of how you decide to acquire your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to examine each school and make your final selection. And with the right training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Laveen Arizona.