How to Find the Right 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 result in a gratifying career in legal services. However, it's important that you find the best school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is one of 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 options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by trying to find schools within commuting distance of their Laveen residences. Of those options, they try to find the program with the most affordable tuition. Although location and cost are important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the school need to be taken into consideration too. Later on in this post we will review a list of concerns that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational alternatives that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both fill the same job roles and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Laveen AZ attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they are employed. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is normally billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And the same as attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and adhere to a strict code of professional ethics. As noted, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their daily activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant laws and cases
- Drafting correspondence and legal documents
- Filing legal documents with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping lawyers get ready for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite challenging. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not confined to administrative or clerical duties more applicable to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the main support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, lawyers are able to handle a much larger number of cases or clients than they could on their own.
Paralegal Certificates and Degrees and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals arguably having more professional sounding job titles. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and job prospects will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a paralegal in Laveen AZ is by earning a certificate, which may require as little as 6 months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which offer a more extensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. Once you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to continue and get a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected 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 program (we will cover the advantages of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Schools
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more common and can be an excellent option for individuals searching for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be especially attractive to Laveen AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an additional benefit, online programs can in some cases be less expensive than more traditional options. Even ancillary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will discuss in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the training you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a highly regarded organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to study in a less structured and formal setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online may be the right option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start the process of assessing schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Laveen AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true when you add all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs also. If you are like the majority of potential students, you will start by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already covered, there are other crucial issues to think about also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are researching so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final decision.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose should be accredited by a respected 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 focuses on distance or online learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Laveen AZ law firms will only employ entry level legal assistants that have graduated from an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually offered only for accredited schools.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the paralegal programs you are considering. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your training exclusively. Checking that the school you choose is accredited is a good first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Laveen AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Remember that even though a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an exceptional reputation.
Does the Program Offer Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal establishment while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to begin creating contacts within the Laveen AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal programs you are evaluating provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help offered? You will undoubtedly want to secure employment quickly after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without assistance. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws differ from state to state, it may be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to practice after graduation. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the local legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to acquire your education in the area where you desire to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, most charge an increased tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you might want to initially consider those schools that are within the Laveen AZ area.
What is the Complete Expense? Paralegal programs can differ in price depending on the credential obtained and the amount of training provided. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid might be accessible to help reduce part of the cost, so be sure to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Laveen AZ. Naturally if you opt to attend an online school, some of these added costs, for instance for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Numerous legal students keep working while getting their training and must have flexibility to schedule classes. 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 choose offers that option. Finally, ask what the procedure is for making-up classes missed as a result of sickness, work or family obligations.
Choose the Right Laveen Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal legal assistant training school is an important first step toward your success in the gratifying field of law. As we have discussed in this post, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can attend them online in the comfort and privacy of your Laveen residence. Paralegal academic programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of public and private institutions provide paralegal training, including community colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal school will have a pronounced impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick carefully. Afford yourself the greatest possible opportunity to be successful in this fascinating profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your ultimate decision. And with the appropriate education you can accomplish your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Laveen Arizona.