How to Choose the Right Paralegal Program Near Litchfield Park Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in paralegal studies near Litchfield Park AZ and start your journey that will result in a rewarding profession in legal services. Nevertheless, it's essential that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you require to be successful. As you probably know, the legal field is one of the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of educational choices are being offered, both on campus and online. However with numerous options to choose from, where does one begin? Some potential students begin by looking for schools within commuting distance of their Litchfield Park homes. Of those options, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are very important considerations when choosing a college, they are not the only qualifiers you ought to consider. Things like accreditation and the reputation of the school should be taken into account also. Later in this article we will cover a list of concerns that you must ask potential paralegal schools so that you can examine and compare each one before making your decision. But first, let's take a look at what a paralegal does and the instructional options that are available to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, just with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the same as either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both paralegals and legal assistants assist Litchfield Park AZ lawyers with a diverse array of job functions, including maintaining client files, legal research, drafting legal documents and communicating with clients. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice might assist with trial logistics or delivering documents to court. In private practices, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like attorneys, they must conduct themselves with a high degree of professionalism and comply with a strict code of professional ethics. As stated, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the firms where they work, but a few of their regular activities might involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Conducting research on related laws and cases
- Preparing correspondence and legal documents
- Submitting legal papers with the court or opposing counsel
- Helping attorneys prepare for trial and stay organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be involved and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally authorized to do is offer legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical duties more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Paralegals truly are the main support systems for attorneys. And since they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to handle a much larger number 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. As a result, for either position the academic prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The fastest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Litchfield Park AZ is by obtaining a certificate, which may take just six months to complete. Many entry level positions do call for an Associate's Degree, which offer a more expansive education and may be earned at many community colleges in two years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option as well. Once you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a mandatory requirement in Arizona to work as a paralegal, certification may not only help maximize your career opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. 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 certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will address the advantages of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial first steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Classes
Online legal assistant or paralegal programs have become more prevalent and may be a good option for those looking for convenient access to classes and flexible scheduling. Online programs can be particularly appealing to Litchfield Park AZ students who keep working while obtaining a degree. As an additional advantage, online classes can often be less costly than on campus options. Even ancillary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials can be minimized or eliminated. One caveat, not all internet programs are accredited, which we will address in greater detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you obtain is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the school and program you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for instance the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and formal environment, then obtaining your degree or certificate online might be the ideal choice for you.
Points to Ask Paralegal Certificate or Degree Programs
Since you now you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are offered, you can start the undertaking of assessing schools. But considering that there are so many programs offered at community and junior colleges in the Litchfield Park AZ area, in addition to vocational and trade schools, you need to learn 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 prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other critical aspects to research also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over several of the questions you need to be asking the programs you are investigating so that you can effectively vet each one and make your final choice.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you pick need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency 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 targets online or distance training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to potential employers that you are a qualified professional also. Many Litchfield Park AZ law firms will only hire entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Finally, financial aid and student loans are usually accessible only for accredited schools.
What's the School's Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no prior work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating reports, such as those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also call several Litchfield Park AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask which schools they recommend. Bear in mind that even if a school is not among the most highly ranked, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the School Sponsor Internships? Internship programs provide students a chance to experience working in a law office or other legal enterprise while attending school. They can also offer a pathway for students to start establishing contacts within the Litchfield Park AZ legal community. Ask if the paralegal programs you are assessing provide internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you are most interested in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Help available? You will probably want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be difficult without support. Ask if the paralegal programs you are considering have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. High and rapid placement rates are a good indication that the schools have substantial networks and great relationships with Arizona legal services employers. It also substantiates that their students are highly regarded and in demand.
Where is the School Located? Considering that laws differ from state to state, it might be a good idea to enroll in a paralegal school located in Arizona or the state where you plan to practice after graduating. In addition, it will be important to create relationships in the neighboring legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is all the more reason to obtain your education in the area where you want to practice. 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 need to first investigate those colleges that are within the Litchfield Park AZ area.
How Much is the Total Expense? Paralegal schools can vary in price depending on the credential received and the length of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expenditure for your training. Remember to include the cost of supplies, books and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize part of the cost, so make sure to consult with the school's financial aid department to see what is available in Litchfield Park AZ. Of course if you decide to attend an online program, some of these additional expenses, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Match your Schedule? Many paralegal students keep working while getting their training and need flexibility to schedule classes. If you can just attend night or weekend classes near Litchfield Park AZ, make sure classes are offered at those times. Additionally, 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 procedure is for making up classes missed due to work, illness or family obligations.
Choose the Best Litchfield Park Paralegal Degree or Certificate Program
Enrolling in the best paralegal studies degree school is a crucial first step to guarantee your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have addressed in this article, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can participate online in the privacy and comfort of your Litchfield Park home. Paralegal training programs are made available in various formats and lengths. Various kinds of public and private institutions offer paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four year universities and colleges, 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 profession. Since there is a wide range in the quality of programs, pick wisely. Give yourself the best possible chance to be successful in this exciting profession. But irrespective of how you decide to obtain your training and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have provided you will have the ability to examine each program and make your ultimate selection. And with the right training you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Litchfield Park Arizona.