How to Select the Right Paralegal Course Near Maricopa Arizona
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Maricopa AZ and start your journey that will lead to a fulfilling career in legal services. Nevertheless, it's crucial that you find the right school so that you will receive the comprehensive training that you need to succeed. As you probably know, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and more and more academic alternatives are being offered, both on campus and online. But with numerous options to choose from, where does one start? Some prospective students begin by searching for schools within commuting distance of their Maricopa residences. Of those choices, they search for the program with the most affordable tuition. Although cost and location are necessary considerations when picking a school, they are not the only qualifiers you should take into consideration. Things like the reputation and accreditation of the school ought to be taken into account as well. Later on in this post we will cover a list of questions that you need to ask prospective paralegal schools so that you can evaluate and compare each one before making your selection. But before we do, let's have a look at exactly what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Legal Assistants and Paralegals
Legal assistants and paralegals for the most part both hold the same job roles and responsibilities, only with different titles. On the other hand, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and are part of a separate job classification. Both legal assistants and paralegals assist Maricopa AZ attorneys with a wide variety of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, 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 may help with the logistics of a trial or delivering documents to court. In private firms, the work of a paralegal is usually billed by the hour as are the attorney's. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and abide by a strict standard of professional ethics. As mentioned, their responsibilities can be varied in support of the practices where they work, but a few of their regular tasks may involve:
- Researching and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Preparing correspondence and legal papers
- Filing legal documents with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting attorneys get ready for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal files, documents and additional records
With all of their responsibilities, the role of a paralegal can be involved and quite demanding. However, what they are not legally permitted to do is give legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal proceeding. But they are not limited to administrative or clerical functions more suited 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 ground work and preparation, attorneys are able to manage a much larger number of clients or cases than they could on their own.
Paralegal Training and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are actually the same as legal assistants, with paralegals possibly having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the educational prerequisites and opportunities will be the same. The quickest means to launch your career as a legal assistant in Maricopa AZ is by earning a certificate, which may involve just 6 months to accomplish. Many entry level positions do require an Associate's Degree, which furnish a more expansive education and can be acquired at numerous community colleges in 2 years. And if you are interested in an even more extensive education, four year Bachelor's Degrees are an option also. After you have obtained either a degree or a certificate, you might choose to proceed and earn a certification. Although it is not a legal requirement in Arizona to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help improve your career opportunities, but help substantiate you as a professional as well. 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 degree or certificate from an accredited school (we will cover the benefits of accreditation later) and earning a certification, you will have taken 2 essential initial steps that will help ensure your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Legal Assistant and Paralegal Online Programs
Paralegal and legal assistant online schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for those looking for convenient access to classes and accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be especially appealing to Maricopa AZ students who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online programs can often be less costly than more traditional options. Even supplementary expenditures for such things as commuting or study materials may be reduced or eliminated. One caution, not all online schools are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at the very least accreditation helps ensure 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 respected agency, such as the American Bar Association. But if you are disciplined enough to attend classes in a less supervised and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
What to Ask Paralegal Schools
Once you have a better understanding about what paralegals do and what educational choices are available, you can begin the undertaking of evaluating schools. But since there are numerous programs accessible at community and junior colleges in the Maricopa AZ area, as well as trade and vocational schools, you must find out what questions to ask in order to evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal certificate and degree programs as well. If you are like most prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within driving distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have previously covered, there are other crucial issues to consider also, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let's go over some of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are considering so that you can effectively vet each one and make your ultimate selection.
Is the Paralegal School and Program Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you enroll in should be accredited by a reputable 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 training. Accreditation will not only help guarantee that the education you will get will be of the highest quality, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. A number of Maricopa AZ law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that have graduated from an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are often available only for accredited programs.
What's the Reputation of the Program? Research what the reputations and rankings are for the paralegal programs you are contemplating. This is of particular importance if you are new to the profession with no prior experience, since employers will need to rely on the quality of your education exclusively. Confirming that the program you pick is accredited is a good first step. Checking school rating reports, including those provided by U.S. News and World Report, can help determine school rankings and quality of education as well. You can also call several Maricopa AZ law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Keep in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program may still have an excellent reputation.
Does the School Offer Internships? Internship programs provide students an opportunity to experience working in a law office or other legal operation while still in school. They can also offer an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Maricopa AZ legal community. Find out if the paralegal programs you are considering provide internship programs, specifically in areas of the law that you have the most interest in pursuing after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance offered? You will probably wish to secure employment quickly after graduating, but finding that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without assistance. Find out if the paralegal schools you are interviewing have job placement programs and what their placement rates are. Rapid and high 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 graduates are well regarded and in demand.
Where is the School's Location? Because laws vary among states, it might be beneficial to choose a legal assistant school domiciled in Arizona or the state where you wish to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the area legal community, perhaps by means of an internship program. This is even more justification to receive your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you attend classes at a community college, many charge an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Maricopa AZ area.
How Much is the Complete Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in price based on the credential received and the amount of training furnished. However, tuition will not be the only expense for your training. Don't forget to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget also. Financial assistance might be accessible to help minimize some of the expense, so be sure to check with the school's financial aid department to find out what is offered in Maricopa AZ. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these added costs, such as for commuting, may be decreased or eliminated.
Do the Class Times Fit your Schedule? Many paralegal students continue working while obtaining their training and need flexibility in class scheduling. If you can just attend weekend or evening classes near Maricopa AZ, verify classes are offered at those times. Also, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Last, inquire what the process is for making-up classes missed because of sickness, work or family emergencies.
Choose the Right Maricopa Paralegal Certificate or Degree Program
Choosing the ideal paralegal studies certificate program is a vital first step to guarantee 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 participate online in the comfort and privacy of your Maricopa residence. Paralegal training programs are made available in various lengths and formats. Various types of private and public institutions offer paralegal training, including community colleges, four year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your prospects for success in your new profession. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, pick carefully. Give yourself the best possible opportunity to succeed in this fascinating profession. But regardless of how you decide to obtain your education and earn your certificate or degree, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to review each school and make your final decision. And with the ideal training you can achieve your career objective to become a practicing paralegal in Maricopa Arizona.