How to Select the Right Paralegal Studies School Near Laveen Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Laveen AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's important that you find the best school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to be successful. As you most likely understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and increasingly more academic alternatives are being offered, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one start? Many potential students start by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Laveen homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you must take into consideration. Things such as the reputation and accreditation of the program ought to be taken into consideration as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the educational options that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals essentially both hold comparable job positions and functions, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job category. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Laveen AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job duties, including legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific 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 might assist with the logistics of a trial or transferring documents to court. In private practices, a paralegal's work is typically billed hourly as are the lawyer's. And the same as lawyers, they must carry out their duties with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be wide ranging in support of the practices where they work, but some of their everyday tasks can involve:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent laws and cases
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Helping lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and maintaining legal files, documents and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and rather challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for lawyers. And since they do so much of the legal preparation and ground work, attorneys have the ability to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could otherwise.
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 prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to start your career as a legal assistant in Laveen AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may require as little as six months to accomplish. Most entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more comprehensive education and can be acquired at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are offered as well. After you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you may choose to proceed and obtain a certification. Even though it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification can not only help boost your job opportunities, but help establish you as a professional also. Some of the highly respected certifying organizations in the field 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 cover the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken two crucial first steps that will help ensure your success as either a legal assistant or a paralegal.
Online Paralegal and Legal Assistant Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal schools have become more common and may be a good option for students looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online schools can be especially appealing to Laveen AZ students who continue to work while obtaining a certificate or degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can sometimes be less expensive than on campus options. Even secondary expenditures for such items as study materials or commuting can be reduced or eliminated. One caveat, not all online schools are accredited, which we will address in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make certain that the program and school you are looking into are accredited by a reputable agency, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to attend classes in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal option for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better idea regarding what paralegals do and what academic options are available, you can start 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 vocational and trade schools, you must learn what questions to ask in order to compare each one. This is especially true if 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 driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other important issues to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over a few of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you select need to be accredited by a highly regarded organization such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online school, it may also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which focuses on distance or online training. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will obtain will be of the highest standard, but it will show future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Many Laveen AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited program. Finally, financial aid and student loans are often accessible only for accredited programs.
What's the School's Reputation? Research what the rankings and reputations are for the legal assistant schools you are looking at. This is of specific importance if you are new to the field with no previous experience, since employers will have to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Checking that the school you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help confirm school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also contact several Laveen AZ law firms that you may be interested in working for after graduating and ask which schools they recommend. Remember that even when a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while still in school. They can also present an avenue for students to begin developing contacts within the Laveen AZ legal field. Find out if the paralegal schools you are considering offer internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you are most interested in pursuing upon graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will most likely wish to hit the ground running after graduation, but finding that first job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job assistance programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high placement rates are an excellent sign that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the Campus Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it might be beneficial to choose a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you want to work after graduating. Also, it will be necessary to create relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more reason to receive your education in the community where you wish to practice. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, most require a higher tuition for students that reside outside of their districts. So you may need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Laveen AZ region.
What is the Entire Expense? Paralegal programs can vary in cost depending on the credential obtained and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial aid might be obtainable to help offset part of the expense, so don't forget to talk to the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Laveen AZ. Of course if you choose to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, for instance for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Accommodate your Schedule? A number of legal students keep 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. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part time basis, make certain that the school you select provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up missed classes because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Laveen Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Selecting the right 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 choice of attending classes on-campus or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Laveen home. Paralegal training programs are provided in many lengths and formats. Several types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as vocational and trade schools. Your choice of a paralegal program will have a pronounced impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Given that there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this rewarding profession. But no matter how you decide to receive your training and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have provided you will be able to review each school and make your final selection. And with the ideal training you can realize your career objective to become a successful paralegal in Laveen Arizona.