How to Enroll in the Right Paralegal Studies School 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 rewarding career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you locate the right school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably understand, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? A number of prospective students start by looking for schools within driving distance of their Laveen homes. Of those choices, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are very important considerations when choosing a school, they are not the only factors you should take into consideration. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program need to be considered too. Later in this article we will review a list of questions that you should ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare every one before making your decision. But first, let's have a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Paralegals and legal assistants essentially both fill the same job roles and functions, just with different titles. However, 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 assist Laveen AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job duties, such as legal research, maintaining client files, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their particular job duties are relevant to the type of practice where they are employed. For example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might help with the logistics of a trial or transferring files to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed hourly as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As mentioned, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they are employed, but some of their routine activities can include:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching relevant cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their duties, the role of a paralegal can be complex and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal advice and counsel or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But paralegals are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more suited to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants truly are the main support systems for attorneys. 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 Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are basically the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational requirements and job prospects will be the same. The quickest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Laveen AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take as little as 6 months to complete. A large number of entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. For an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are available as well. When you have obtained either a certificate or degree, you may choose to proceed and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help boost your employment opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. Some 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 certificate or degree from an accredited school (we will address the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two essential first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Certificates and Degrees
Online paralegal or legal assistant schools have become more common and may be a good option for those searching for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Laveen AZ students who keep working while earning a degree. As an added benefit, online schools can sometimes be less expensive than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenses for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest quality. So check to make certain that the program and school you are considering are accredited by a reputable agency, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional environment, then earning your certificate or degree online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Colleges
Now that you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But because there are numerous programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Laveen AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to know what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true when 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical factors to research as well, such as accreditation and the reputation of the schools. So let's take a look at a few of the questions you should be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can properly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also receive accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance learning. Accreditation will not only certify that the education you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will establish with 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 school. Finally, financial assistance and student loans are often accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the Program's Reputation? Find out what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant programs you are contemplating. This is of special importance if you are entering the field with no prior experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Checking school rating reports, including those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact a few Laveen AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduation and ask what schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even though a school is not among the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while attending school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start creating contacts within the Laveen AZ legal field. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing 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 wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that initial job in a new field can be challenging without help. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering have job assistance programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have large networks and good relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School's Location? Considering that laws vary from one state to another, it might be beneficial to select a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you wish to work after graduating. In addition, it will be valuable to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps 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 attend classes at a community college, many charge a higher tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might want to initially look at those schools that are within the Laveen AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can differ in price based on the credential earned and the amount of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only cost for your training. Don't forget to add 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 talk to the school's financial aid office to see what is available in Laveen AZ. Needless to say that if you choose to attend an online program, some of these added costs, such as for commuting, may be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Match your Schedule? Many legal students keep working while getting their training and require flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend weekend or evening classes near Laveen AZ, make certain classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make sure that the program you select provides that option. Finally, inquire what the process is for making-up missed classes due to sickness, work or family obligations.
Enroll in the Best Laveen Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the ideal paralegal certificate program is an essential first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this article, you have the option of attending classes on campus or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Laveen home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in numerous formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community and junior colleges, four-year universities and colleges, in addition to vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a profound influence on your prospects for success in your new profession. Given that there is a wide range in the quality of programs, choose wisely. Give yourself the greatest possible chance to be successful in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you choose to obtain your training 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 decision. And with the ideal training you can accomplish your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Laveen Arizona.