How to Find the Best Paralegal Studies Certificate Program Near Laveen Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Laveen AZ and start your journey that will lead to a satisfying profession in legal services. However, it's essential that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need 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 choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with so many options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Laveen homes. Of those alternatives, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are necessary 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 ought to be taken into consideration also. Later in this post we will cover a list of questions that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one prior to making your selection. But first, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the instructional alternatives that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants basically both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a different job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Laveen AZ attorneys with a wide range of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law firm may assist with the logistics of a trial or transporting documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as attorneys, they must perform with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents 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 permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But paralegals are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals really are the main support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger volume of cases or clients than they could otherwise.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we previously covered, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to launch your career as a legal assistant in Laveen AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which can require just 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more comprehensive education and may be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more comprehensive education, 4 year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may want to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help maximize your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 important initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Schools
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more available and may be an excellent alternative for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to Laveen AZ students who continue to work while earning a certificate or degree. As an added benefit, online schools can in some cases be less costly than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in greater 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 program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less supervised and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Programs
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the process of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs offered at junior and community colleges in the Laveen AZ area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is especially true if you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like many potential students, you will start by searching for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other significant issues to think about also, such as the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final selection.
Is the Paralegal Program and School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select should be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also get accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will get will be of the highest standard, 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 paralegals that have graduated from an accredited program. Also, financial assistance and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are new to the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the quality of your training exclusively. Verifying that the program you choose is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call some Laveen AZ law offices that you may have an interest in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs offer students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal establishment while still in school. They can also present a pathway for students to begin establishing contacts within the Laveen AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are considering provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will probably want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that first job in a new profession can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal programs you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have substantial networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a paralegal school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you plan to work after graduation. In addition, it will be valuable to cultivate relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want 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 might want to first investigate those colleges that are within the Laveen AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential earned and the length 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 aid may be available to help reduce part of the expense, so don't forget to check with the school's financial aid office to see what is offered in Laveen AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online school, a portion these supplementary expenses, for instance for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Laveen AZ, make certain classes are available at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make certain that the school you enroll in provides that option. Finally, find out what the process is for making-up missed classes due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Right Laveen Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Enrolling in the best legal assistant certificate school is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have addressed in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Laveen residence. Paralegal education programs are provided in numerous lengths and formats. Different types of private and public institutions make available paralegal education, including community colleges, four year universities and colleges, in addition to trade and vocational schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new profession. Considering that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Afford yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you elect to obtain your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have furnished you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final decision. And with the appropriate training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Laveen Arizona.